An Examination of the Gendered Effects of Trade Liberalization

  • Karen C. Melanson
Keywords: women, trade liberalization, economic development, human development, trade policy, international development, gender analysis, feminization of labor, informal labor


This article explores an emerging argument that traditional definitions of trade liberalization actually hinder or even reverse women's gains in the worldwide marketplace. The article begins by exposing some of the flaws in traditional economic theories that lead to an overemphasis on statistical indicators of growth rather than more holistic measures of progress that consider socioeconomic status of poorer countries' citizens most notably women. The author purports that in reality women who have taken jobs in the factories and fields created as a result of outsourcing by developed countries' trade liberalization policies face a declining ability to provide valuable, although largely ignored informal work, including raising children and providing domestic care for their households. The value of this informal work to the global economy is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. The author concludes by offering recommendations for future research into the effects of trade liberalization on women and the effects of lost informal or domestic, work on the global economy.

Author Biography

Karen C. Melanson
Karen Melanson will graduate in May 2005 from The George Washington University with a Master of Public Policy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Tulane University. Ms. Melanson is currently a research assistant at The George Washington Institute of Public Policy.