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The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America

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The labour market experienced in the last four decades a great change in its composition through the increasing of female labour force. In most of the Latin American countries during this period a huge increase of women participation in the urban labour market took place (Historical patterns of gender inequality in Latin America: New evidence, 16th World Economic History Congress, 2012). The female labour force participation began to increase in the 1970s, and continued into the 1980s, and in the 1990s the region saw a significant improvement. From the 1960s Argentine, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico and Chile passed of a female participation rate of around 20 % to 40–50 % in 2000. This change can be explained among other things by a process of technological advance and increase of human capital that allow to replace domestic or informal work by paid work. This change impacts on the labour market by increasing the supply of labour and increasing inequality between workers given that a gender gap persists. In Latina America the more recent studies of income distribution show heterogeneity between the countries (The microeconomics of income distribution dynamics in East Asia and Latin America, World Bank, Washington, DC, 2004). We think that this topic highlighted the necessity of decomposition of inequality to understand the driving forces behind inequality over time. The main goal of the research is to test the hypothesis that the evolution of the gender wage gap is an important component in global inequality and it has non-linear effects. Although this gap has narrowed in recent decades it is still wide, especially in the Latin American countries where inequality is high and where the incorporation of women into the labour force has lagged behind the developed countries.
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© The Author(s) 2017
L. Bértola, J. Williamson (eds.), Has Latin American Inequality
Changed Direction?, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-44621-9_10
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality
in Latin America
María Magdalena Camou and Silvana Maubrigades
1 Introduction
The composition of the labour market in most Latin American countries has changed
greatly in the last four decades with a huge increase in the proportion of women in
the urban labour market (Camou 2012). Female labour force participation began to
increase in the 1970s and this continued through the 1980s and 1990s. In Argentina,
Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico and Chile the female participation rate of around 20 % in
1960 increased to 40–50 % in 2000.
The demographic, technological and economic factors behind this process are dis-
cussed in the literature. Although this change opens new opportunities for women to
become more economically independent, a high proportion are still inactive, and
increased women’s participation has not eliminated segregation in the labour market.
Recent studies show that the Latin American countries are heterogeneous in this
respect. The predominant trend in the 1980–1990s was increased inequality,
although this began to reverse in the twenty-first century (Bourguignon et al. 2004;
Bértola and Ocampo 2012). However, the gender component of inequality change
has not been sufficiently incorporated into these results.
Our main aim in this study is to reconstruct the gender wage gap for a sample of
Latin American countries to frame explanations of its evolution and impact on inequal-
ity. Our data come from the Censuses and Household Surveys in each country.
Our research involves an exhaustive analysis of wage differences between men
and women and focuses on how the gender gap has changed over time and its rela-
tion to inequality in the different countries. Our sample consists of Argentina,
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
M.M. Camou (*) • S. Maubrigades
Universidad de la República, Uruguay
220
Our emphasis is on reconstructing gender indicators for the long run, insofar as
this is possible with the sources available, and we analyze the different trajectories
and patterns of inequality that are specifically related to gender, and check them
against global income distribution trends.
Our hypothesis is that the evolution of the gender wage gap is an important
component of overall inequality and it has nonlinear effects. Although this gap has
narrowed in recent decades, it is still wide, especially in the Latin American coun-
tries where inequality is high and where the incorporation of women into the labour
force has lagged behind.
In the next section, we summarize the theoretical links between the increasing
female labour supply and inequality, and set the most important results from Latin
American research on the subject and the goals of the chapter. Section “The Current
Situation” presents our methodology and the sources used. Section “Data and
Methodology” discusses the latest data documenting the evolution of female labour
force participation and education in twentieth-century Latin America. It also
explores the relation between the levels of women’s participation in the labour mar-
ket and their education. In section “The Evolution of Female Labour Force
Participation and Education Achievement During the Twentieth Century” we exam-
ine the evolution of the gender wage gap and inequality indicators. Section
“Measuring Inequality and the Gender Wage Gap” estimates the impact of female
labour supply, overall inequality and education on the gender gap. The last section
draws some conclusions.
2 Theoretical Approach
Latin America has always had high levels of inequality, and today, in spite of recent
improvements, it is still the second most unequal region in the world, just below
sub-Saharan Africa.
Latin American studies agree that the main cause of increasing inequality in the
region has been the process whereby political power, wealth and income have
become concentrated in the hands of landowning and capitalist elites and of the
people who control work and trade relations (Bértola and Ocampo 2012).
In the First Globalization period inequality in Latin America increased, and
while the gap was not as wide as in other regions at that time like Africa and Asia it
was still too great to enable these Hispanic countries to catch up with the developed
world.
In the industrialization period (1930–1980), Latin American social development
indicators had higher growth rates than at any other time in the region’s history,
although the improvement was more marked in some countries than others.
There was also an improvement in equity levels in the countries that managed to
develop welfare state systems such as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. However, other
countries had high levels of inequality either because there were big differences in
the composition of the population (indigenous people, peasants, descendants of
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
221
slaves) or because their labour markets were strongly segmented with gaps between
formal and informal workers that highlighted the differences in state regulation.
Starting in the 1970s, the levels of equity that had been attained previously began
to diminish. This was due to the drastic deregulation of labour markets, increasing
segmentation in job markets, a widening gap between the skilled and the unskilled
workforce, along with an industrialization slowdown, less state participation and a
cutback on policies to redistribute wealth.
Many authors consider that the persistence of inequality is related to social, cultural
and economic frameworks and the fact that discrimination and prejudice are embedded
in formal and informal institutions. This particularly affects gender inequality, which
according to the literature (Sarasúa and Gálvez 2003) is related to false beliefs and
stereotypes that permeate education, family and functioning of the labour market.
Since 1970, women in Latin America have had considerably higher levels of
well-being, measured in terms of health and education, than women in other devel-
oping regions. However, in spite of this progress, Latin American women have not
had equal opportunities to earn income and have largely been excluded from posi-
tions of power in political and economic institutions. This makes the region an inter-
esting context in which to consider the effects of globalization, both because the
moves toward liberalization have been substantial and because women have had
many of the prerequisites to participate in the market economy.
There is considerable discussion in the literature about the consequences of
increasing women’s participation in the labour force during the globalization period,
and interpretations of the evidence are diverse. According to the neoclassical view,
as exemplified by the Stolper-Samuelson model, in developing countries free trade
leads to rising wages for unskilled work, which is the relatively abundant factor in
these economies (Samuelson 1948). Since unskilled work is often done by women
we can infer from the Stolper-Samuelson model that globalization leads to increased
demand for women to work, and hence should have as a final consequence a relative
expansion of female participation and a narrowing of the gender gap (see the case
of Mexico in Dell 2005; Artecona and Cunningham 2002; Garcia Cuellar 2001).
However, the evidence for the period 1970–1990 does not support this theory inso-
far as the growth of demand for female labour has not produced any robust decline in
the gender earnings gap, which varies greatly between different regions of the world
(Çağatay and Ertürk 2004). Moreover, the narrowing of gender gaps cannot be attrib-
uted only to the globalization process because other changes also had an impact. It
may be that the improved quality of female labour with the incorporation of workers
who were more experienced and better educated (O’Neill and Polachek 1993, Goldin
2000) and the fall in wages for less skilled male workers (Blau and Kahn 1997) came
into play, rather than just an increase in the demand for female labour.
The most common heterodox approach to this question has been to consider the
effect of gender wage gaps on successful export-led growth. Given that women are
excluded from certain occupations and sectors, trade opening brought with it an
increase in the labour supply of women in certain kinds of work, and this raised
unemployment rates and reduced wages (Bergmann 1974) or perpetuated wage
gaps (Joekes 1999; Seguino 2000; Berik et al. 2003).
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
222
Another approach in the literature has focused on the sacrifices that globalization
has forced women in developing countries to make (Beneria 2003; Beneria et al.
2000). With very small or in some cases no improvements in household technolo-
gies, greater female participation levels in paid occupations have meant more total
hours of work for women than for men. Adjustment policies and public expenditure
cutbacks in the same period have had negative effects on welfare, health and other
human capital services. This affects women more than men, since the former are
usually responsible for the human capital formation of their children. Therefore
changes in women’s economic situations must be analyzed together with other
human and social capital conditions that determine their final market power.
3 The Current Situation
Research on the evolution of the gender gap in the globalization era in Latin America
has been addressed in various ways but there is scant literature with a historical
perspective. One reason for this is that the data is very difficult to obtain. Prior to
1970 and before the first Household Surveys there is little aggregate statistical
evidence relating to the gender wage gap.
Reyes Campo (2012) has studied the evolution of the gender wage gap in Chile
using new sources of pre-1960 data. Prior to her work, there was no data for wages
by gender for Chile. She has been able to document the gender gap from 1939 to
1974, using social security data. Although the gender wage gap diminished over
time, the ratio of women’s wages to male wages only increased 14 percentage points
from 1939 to 1968. So the evidence points towards discrimination.
For Uruguay, Camou (2010) studied the evolution of the gender gap in the textile
and meatpacking industries, based on business archives for the period of 1915–
1957. Her research also shows a trend towards a shrinking gender wage gap in these
industries of about 20 %. Another paper compares the forces responsible for the
evolution of gender gap and wage inequality in South Asia, East Asia and Latin
America (Camps et al. 2006). Human capital, health improvement, labour market
liberalization and equal treatment enforcement laws seem to be the main exogenous
variables affecting women’s economic situation. Between 1975 and 2000 the gen-
der gap narrowed, the main exception to the rule is China, where the economic gap
between men and women increased. Everywhere else, the erosion in the gender gap
has resulted in a fall of wage dispersion. In short, the narrowing of the gender gap
during the second global era has tended to reduce wage inequality measured by both
the Gini and Theil indexes.
Hoyos and Ñopo (2010) focus on the changes in the 1990s and 2000s and ana-
lyze Household Survey data for 1992 and 2007, controlling by education, number
of children and other characteristics of the population. Their research explores the
impact of changing characteristics of the labour supply on gender earnings inequal-
ity. The research shows that the gender gap decreased by 7 % overall during the
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
223
period but with great heterogeneity among countries, and that cohort effects linked
to life cycle influence gender earnings.
For the same two decades, Gálvez (2001) examined the dynamic of women
joining the labour market and concluded that, despite improvements in the female
activity rate, education level and the gender gap, their situation continued to be
worse than men’s on indicators like the unemployment rate, the activity rate and the
persistence of the wage gap. Greater gender equality is reduced less to economic
aspects and more to institutional, cultural or regulatory aspects. Mexico and Chile
are good examples of this negative correlation as they have the lowest levels of
women’s income related to higher GDP per capita. Considering the impact of these
changes on inequality, Gálvez remarks that the increase in inequality among women,
which was due to uneven education gains, may have contributed to an increase in
overall inequality.
Our research adds to this literature by extending the period under study thus to
capture the impact of previous gender inequality on the present gender gap. Our
purpose is to learn more about path dependency. Are the countries with an early
high level of gender discrimination those in which it is more difficult to bring
women into the workforce?
Lastly, we look at the relationship between overall inequality and gender inequal-
ity. We examine whether gender inequality and total inequality share the same
trends, whether and why they can have an opposite trend.
4 Data and Methodology
Our research concentrates on the differences between women and men in paid work.
We do not take into account women who do unpaid work, although this was the big-
gest group in the female population in the period. It is clear that although gender
inequality cannot be reduced merely to a comparison between the sexes, the first
step in the analysis must be to focus on a statistical breakdown by gender.
International comparisons are still constrained by the lack of reliable data. Part
of the work that women do in poor countries is in the informal economy and at
home and/or for piece rates. The information documenting this kind of work is
scarce and is often not comparable across countries. Thus, we focus on market earn-
ings only. Income inequality is higher than earnings inequality because wage earn-
ings are less disperse than property and self-employment incomes.
Data on wage earnings disaggregated by gender come from Household Surveys1
in each country, and we use it to calculate the wage per hour for each sex. In most
of the datasets we exploit, the unit of observation is the household, and this gives us
Gini coefficients for income and expenditure (Deininger and Squire 1996, 1998;
World Bank 1995; Higgins and Williamson 2002). Other approaches have focused
on individuals instead of households, using national account information (see
1 Household Surveys include individual and household information.
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
224
Bourguignon and Morrison 2002; Sala-i-Martin 2003). Since our unit of analysis
has to be the individual and not the household, Gini coefficients for household
income hide important information about the unequal economic position of women
in the household.
We calculate the Gini index for earnings inequality in the economy as a whole,
and for inequality among men and among women. We supplement this measure
with calculations of the so-called generalized entropy measures, the best known of
which are the Theil indexes. These indexes enable us to estimate how much overall
inequality is explained by inequality within groups and how much by inequality
between groups. We use these indexes to disaggregate inequality into its gender
sources.
5 The Evolution of Female Labour Force Participation
and Education Achievement During the Twentieth
Century
There is a line of research that documents female labour force participation in the
long run. Important studies have been done by Goldin (1994, 2006) for the USA,
and she finds a “U” relation between female employment rates and economic
growth. This is due to the relation between education and economic development.
At low levels of development, education increases more for men than for women.
As income rises, women’s participation decreases. When income increases further,
education resources expand and women receive more education, which promotes
their participation in the labour market. With more education and the expansion of
non-industrial employment, women’s participation continues to increase and thus
forms the “U” (Psacharopoulos and Tzannatos 1989; Schultz 1990). This evolution
has been explored for countries with different income levels. The results show that
those with higher or lower levels of income have higher female labour force partici-
pation rates than middle-income countries (Pampel and Tanaka 1986; Psacharopoulos
and Tzannatos 1989; Tzannatos 1999).
Documentation of the evolution of female labour force participation in Latin
America is very recent (Camou and Maubrigades 2013). Researchers have to strug-
gle with the fact that, in general, women workers have not been well documented.
The censuses carried out in the first decades of the twentieth century are inconsis-
tent in the way they register women’s participation in the primary sector. This
makes the total primary sector employment change atypical because work there
tends to be less formalized and many women are involved in productive as well as
home care activities.
There is another problem with the first censuses in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay
carried out at the end of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth
century. These record each individual’s occupations regardless of whether or not
that person was employed at the time. The present-day concept of “unemployed”
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
225
was less applicable when wage labour was the exception rather than the rule.
However, this was a period of rapid economic growth which implies that unemploy-
ment was probably very low.
Three periods can be distinguished:
1. 1910–1940: a fall in female labour participation in some countries like Argentina
and Chile
2. 1940–1970: few changes in the Latin American countries studied
3. 1970 to the present: explosive growth in female labour participation rates
The data collected for the years 1930–1970 give quantitative support to the thesis
that female participation in labour markets decreased during the import substitution
period. The state promoted a sort of male-breadwinner model during this period in
Uruguay and Chile, which fostered a decrease in women’s participation in the
labour market (Todaro 2004; Espino and Azar 2007).
Female labour force participation began to increase moderately in the 1970s and
this trend continued into the 1980s (Table 1). However, only in the 1990s did the
region see a significant improvement, in general, and it still remained lower than in
the developed countries (Camou and Maubrigades 2013).
Besides this, the trajectories of female activity rates diverged across Latin
America. Chile, Uruguay and Argentina had a relatively high rate of female labour
participation from the beginning of the period, while Brazil, Colombia and Mexico
were much further behind. By the end of the period, Brazil and Colombia had
caught up with the first three. The other countries considered in Table 1 have much
lower participation rates and, despite some improvement, they have never reached
the levels of the Latin leaders.
Although the long-term trend was upwards throughout Latin America, the evi-
dence shows no single pattern in how these countries incorporated women into the
labour market during their various stages of development.
As regards education, over the last 60 years the educational level of Latin
American countries has progressed to an unprecedented degree. In 1950, the illit-
eracy rate was about 40 % among persons aged 15 and over; by 2005 it had fallen
below 10 %. The speed of progress has varied between countries and the illiteracy
rate remains high in some countries, in particular those with large indigenous
populations.
In the second half of twentieth century, in most of Latin America, female years
of schooling increased to near or even slightly higher than men in countries like
Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Uruguay. Moreover, gender schooling differences
have been reduced especially in recent decades. Only in countries with high illiter-
acy rates and/or large indigenous communities like Guatemala, Nicaragua or
Honduras do we still see big gender gap in schooling.
Considering the expansion of primary education coverage followed by continual
growth in basic education, Latin America has presented a set of education policies
geared specifically to less privileged groups (in terms of ethnicity, geographical
location and socioeconomic status). However, gender inequalities persist in a group
of countries but are hidden behind overall averages.
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
226
Table 1 Female activity rates
Arg Bol Bra Chi Col C. Ri Ecu El Sal Gu Hon Mex Nic Par Pe Uru Ve n
1900
1910 34 15 18
1920 31 6 21
1930 21 4 20
1940 27 24 26 28 6 21
1950 28 18 31 23 13 22
1960 26 21 24 23 18 18 19 13 18 22 26 23 23 20
1970 32 23 24 24 27 21 17 25 14 17 20 21 24 21 41 23
1980 33 23 33 26 25 29 27 37 14 18 27 36 23 30 42 30
1990 43 55 52 34 47 35 37 38 28 30 32 38 43 48 47 36
2000 50 61 58 41 57 41 48 47 41 37 41 46 49 59 52 41
Sources: ILO-Olivetti (2013). Argentina: Latin America Census 1960–2000: ILO; Uruguay: Fleitas and Román (2010) and Census; Brazil: Census; Chile:
Godoy and Díaz; Mexico: INEGI, DGE. Census. Period 1990 and 2000—ECLAC 2013
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
227
Figure 1 shows the evolution of education during the period of analysis, comparing
average female to average male schooling. Both sexes improved but girls had not
yet reached the boys’ levels. The gender catching up in schooling started with the
massive intake of women into primary education; it advanced with greater female
participation in secondary education and progressed still further with more and
more women at the higher education level.
However, when we examine the countries individually we find differences
among them. One group of countries started the period with an average of years of
study almost twice as high as the others. These were Argentina, Chile and Uruguay
and to a lesser degree Costa Rica. This group implemented public policies to pro-
mote the enrolment of boys and girls in primary and secondary education. This
resulted in sustained growth in years of schooling for both sexes during the second
half of the twentieth century and women in Argentina and Uruguay performed even
better than male.
In the second half of the century, another group of countries had average school-
ing of only 2 years, and girls still lagged behind boys even at the end of the period.
This group included countries with larger indigenous and rural populations, and this
may help explain why enrolment in formal educational institutions was so low. The
group contains countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Mexico and Brazil are examples of good improvement in the period. The popula-
tions of both had low education levels in the late 1950s, but by the end of the period
years of schooling had increased greatly in both. Although the causality has to be
firmly established, it appears that rapid economic growth raised the demand for
schooling during the period, and that both were proactive in education policies
intended to improve human capital fast.
Fig. 1 Education attainment by sex. Sources: Based on Barro, R. J. and J. W. Lee (2012)
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
228
The relationship between activity rates and education has not been linear. At low
levels of schooling, there is a strong correspondence between years of schooling and
female labour force participation. At higher levels of female years of schooling the
elasticity of the female activity rate decreases.
Although average years of schooling increased in most of the Latin American
countries during the period, there are big differences in the sample. In 2000 Chile
and Costa Rica had high schooling rates and low activity rates, while Bolivia,
Ecuador, Paraguay and El Salvador had high activity rates but only modest increases
in years of schooling. Towards the end of the period the countries in the region
returned to the free market model and opened up to trade. This shift increased the
demand for technical skills and reduced the demand for low-skill workers, a sector
in which the percentage of women is higher than the percentage of female economy-
wide (Bértola and Ocampo 2012).
6 Measuring Inequality and the Gender Wage Gap
Although overall female labour force participation has increased over the last
50 years, there are still gender differences among countries. Gender discrimination
in wages has persisted over time and is common in many countries. The persistence
suggests structural causes rooted in institutions and cultural norms. For instance,
women are more likely to respond positively to increased economic opportunities in
the labour market when childcare services are available or when their participation
is socially accepted. In contrast, where significant barriers remain their progress is
more limited (Fig. 2).
In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Latin American women typically
received less than 35 % of total national income, although the figure was around
40 % in six leaders (Fig. 3). The women’s share increased strongly between 1990
and 2000 in Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In Costa Rica, Ecuador and El Salvador the reason behind this trend is more related
to improvements in the female activity rate than to a narrowing of the gender wage
gap but in Guatemala, Honduras, Uruguay and Venezuela the gap became consider-
ably smaller during this period (Fig. 4).
In the first decade of the new century the countries with the narrowest wage gaps
were Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The other countries in our sample are falling behind. We can only partially recon-
struct some countries’ trajectories because sources are scarce. The data we have
indicates that the countries that had a narrower gender wage gap in the past are the
ones performing better at present. In the period 1970–2010 the gap in Brazil was
wider than that in Argentina or Uruguay.
In Latin America, inequality among men has more weight in the total Gini level
due to their greater participation in the labour market and to greater inequality
among males (see Appendices 1, 2 and 3). The distribution of schooling and skills
among sexes may be part of the explanation.
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
229
There is no a clear trend in the evolution of inequality among women. While the
overall average remains unchanged over the period, there is a group of countries
(Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Peru) with increasing inequality in
women’s wages. The overall inequality increase during the period probably affects
women as well as men. The reason the spread among women’s wages is greater is
probably that they join the labour market with greater human capital because their
years of schooling and work experience are increasing.
7 Explaining the Gender Wage Gap
In an international comparison, Blau and Kahn (1997) found that labour markets
with highly unequal rates of remuneration also have high levels of gender inequal-
ity. Next we tested their relation between overall wage inequality and gender gap for
Latin America.
At first glance, Latin American evidence confirms the postulated relation. The
countries that are more unequal (with Gini ratings above 0.5: Fig. 5) also have wider
gender gaps. When we look at the differences among countries over the period we
can identify two groups. First, there are those in which overall inequality remained
relatively high over the period and the gender gap narrowed but female wage earnings
Ar50
Ar60
Ar70
Ar80
Ar90
Ar00
Bo70
Bo80
Bo90
Bo00
Br50
Br60
Br70 Br80
Bra90
Br00
Ch50
Ch60
Ch70
Ch80
Ch90
Ch00
Co50
Co60
Co70
Co80
Co90
Co00
CRi60
CRi70
CRi80
CRi90
CRi00
Ec60
Ec70
Ec80
Ec90
Ec00
Sa60
Sa70
Sa80
Sa90
Sa00
Gu60
Gu70
Gu80
Gu90
Gu00
Ho70
Ho80
Ho90
Ho00
Mx50
Mx60
Mx70
Mx80
Mx90
Mx00
Ni60
Ni70
Ni80
Ni90
Ni00
Pa60
Pa70
Pa80
Pa90
Pa00
Pe60
Pe70
Pe80
Pe90
Pe00
Uy50
Uy60
Uy70
Uy80
Uy90
Uy00
Ve60
Ve70
Ve80
Ve90
Ve00
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
010203040506
07
0
Female years of schooling
Female activity rates
Fig. 2 Female activity rate and years of schooling, 1950–2000. Sources: Activity rates idem
Table 1. Years of schooling—Barro and Lee (2012)
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
230
remained lower than male. This was the case in Chile, Bolivia, Honduras, Peru,
Nicaragua and Ecuador. Brazil was a special case with high inequality and a wide
gender gap (see Appendices 1, 2 and 3).
There is a second group with relatively low total inequality and a narrowing
gender gap, and here we find Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Venezuela. In
particular, Argentina and Uruguay are also countries with a lower gender gap in the
past and a higher activity rate. In any case, path dependence does not seem to be the
only way to achieve a narrower gender gap: Venezuela belongs to this group
although traditionally it has had low female participation rate.
Another factor that probably impacts on the gender wage gap is the historical
pattern of women’s participation in the labour market. In the period 1940–1970,
gender inequality was high in Latin America and this was expressed in a low level
of female labour participation and a wide gender gap. There are few data available
0,20 0,25 0,30 0,35 0,40 0,45
Argentina
Bolivia
Brasil
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Ecuador
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Uruguay
Venezuela
LA average
00s
90s
Fig. 3 Women’s share of wage bill, 1990–2000. Sources: Household surveys
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
231
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
1940s 1970s 1990s 2000s
Fig. 4 Gender wage gap in Latin America, 1940–2000. Sources: ILO and household surveys
Arg 70
Br70
Uy80
Ar90
Bo90
Br90
Ch90
Co90
CRi90
Ec90
Sal90 Gua90
Ho90
Ni90
Pa90
Pe90
Uy90
Ve90
Ar00
Bo00
Br00
Ch00
Co00
CRi00
Ec00
Sa00
Gua00
Ho
Ni00 Pa00
Pe00
Uy00
Ve000
0,8
0,9
1,0
1,1
1,2
1,3
1,4
1,5
1,6
1,7
0,30 0,35 0,40 0,45 0,50 0,55 0,60 0,65
Gender wage gap
Global gini
Fig. 5 Overall inequality and gender wage gap. Sources: Household surveys
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
232
for the 1980s, the so-called lost decade, and in the 1990s we entered a new phase
with a narrower gender wage gap and greater variability in women’s activity rates
across the region. At the end of the period women’s participation in labour markets
was still rising but the gender gap had not significantly narrowed. It can be seen that
this correlation between the two variables is not very strong towards the end of the
period in which many countries have similar gender gaps and there is a wide spread
in the participation rate.
The trends in women activity rates in Latin American labour markets in 2000s
are very different between countries. While the general trend is rising over time,
only in very few cases does the average reach 50 %. The heterogeneity revealed in
Fig. 6 could have many explanations and is probably linked to the liberal deregulatory
economic policies prevailing since the 1980s. But the gender gap remained stable in
the 1990s and 2000s.
These results also show that increases in women’s participation in the labour
market do not necessarily mean a substantial change because as the participation
rate increases the female occupation and wage dispersion also increase. Gender gap
trends depend on individual investment in education and the returns to that educa-
tion. In recent years, female education levels have risen relative to those of men.
Although countries have achieved high female labour market participation rates, it
is clear that educational equality is not sufficient to secure gender parity in income.
One of the reasons why the gender gap has persisted is that it tends to be wider at
Co40
Arg40
Uy40
Uy50
Sal60
Uy60
Arg 70
Br70
Uru80
Ar90
Bo90
Ch90
Co90
CRi90
Ec90
Sal90
Gua90
Ho90
Ni90 Pa90
Pe90
Uy90
Ve90
Ar00
Bo00
Br00
Ch00
Co00
CRi00 Ec00
Sa00
Gua00
Ho
Ni00 Pa00 Pe00
Uy00
Ve000
0,8
1,0
1,2
1,4
1,6
1,8
2,0
2,2
2,4
2,6
15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65
Gender wage gap
Female activity rate
Fig. 6 Female activity rate and gender wage gap, 1940–2000. Sources: Activity rates idem
Table 1. Gender wage gap: ILO and household surveys
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
233
higher levels of education. The evolution of the wage gap between men and women
is different at different educational levels. In the tertiary education group the gender
gap was wide at the start of the period and there was little subsequent improvement,
which shows the glass ceiling effect, whereas in the group with only primary education
the gap narrowed more during the same period.
Women’s education improved considerably in the 1990s but, as we saw above,
the increasing skill premium that accompanied the new economic model was less
favourable for better educated women. Increasing female labour force participation
and improved educational attainment in a context of relatively stable male labour
force participation and educational attainment contributed to an overall narrowing
of the gap. As we saw above, a steady convergence between the wages of women
and those of men is not automatic. The portion of the wage gap that cannot be
explained by labour market characteristics related to workers’ skills is generally
attributed to discrimination and to differences in preferences between men and
women. Women tend to enter different careers than men.
There is still a tendency for occupations to be “male dominated” or “female
dominated,” and the female-dominated ones tend to pay less even when men and
women have the same educational level. The majority of women work in the ser-
vices and agricultural sectors, and the fact is that areas in which women are the vast
majority—secretaries, teachers and nurses—are poorly paid.
In the last 50 years, schooling levels have increased and the upgrading of the
occupational structure as a result of technological changes and economic growth
has created a demand for more skilled and educated labour. The increasing demand
for a skilled and highly educated labour has resulted, among other things, in policies
to raise the overall educational level of the population. In spite of that Fig. 7 shows
a high level of sex segregation persisting among employees with tertiary education,
despite the relative equalization between men and women in overall level of educa-
tional attainment. There are wage disparities between men and women with the
same educational qualifications in all Latin American countries analyzed and at all
educational levels, but in particular among the more educated population.
Our in-depth study of the wage gap between men and women shows that the big-
gest differences that remain are among those with the highest levels of qualifications
and incomes (Fig. 8). When we compare the evolution of the gender gap among the
more educated population in the decade of 1990s and 2000s, we find that although
the differences decrease, men’s average wages stayed at around 25 percentage points
higher than women’s. At the end of that decade there were still large wage differen-
tials between men and women with the same level of educational attainment.
In the light of these results, whether these wage differences in the group of ter-
tiary education are related to women’s human capital being underused in the labour
market. One way to approach this is to examine the distribution of the most highly
educated peoples by their income levels. However, we have been able to confirm
that 80–90 % of people of both sexes with tertiary education levels are in the highest
wage level (see Appendices 1, 2 and 3). Even though our data do not show the struc-
ture of occupations by sex inside the group of high income level, we can assume that
this might be different among female and males.
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
234
50
60
70
80
90
100
Argentina
Bolivia
Brazil
Chile
Costa Rica
Colombia
Ecuador
El SalvadorGuatemala
Honduras
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Uruguay
Venezuela
Gender gapwith primary education
1990s
2000s
50
60
70
80
90
100
Argentina
Bolivia
Brazil
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Ecuador
El SalvadorGuatemala
Honduras
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Uruguay
Venezuela
Gender gap with secondary education
1990s
2000s
50
60
70
80
90
100
Argentina
Bolivia
Brazil
Chile
Costa Rica
Colombia
Ecuador
El SalvadorGuatemala
Honduras
Nicaragua
Paraguay
Peru
Uruguay
Venezuela
Gender gap with terciary education
1990s
2000s
Fig. 7 Education and the gender gap. Sources: ILO and household surveys
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
235
8 Conclusion
The aim of this chapter has been to help to bring the gender perspective into the
discussion of the evolution of overall inequality. Our results enable us to map trends
in female labour participation rates and schooling achievement in Latin America in
the twentieth century.
First we find that the most unequal countries are also those with the greater
gender wage gap, and recent history reveals much inertia. The most “advanced”
countries in terms of gender equality are those in which female labour participation
rates increased in the first half of the twentieth century and also have higher levels
of educational attainment and a narrower gender wage gap. In the less “advanced”
countries, women’s entry into the labour market lagged behind that of the advanced
group average, and this was associated with less developed economies with large
indigenous and black population.
These results suggest that labour market structures are different in the two groups
and that a narrowing of the gender gap does not depend only on women’s participa-
tion at the end of the period but also on path dependence in labour occupational
segregation. Contrary to what we expected, the gender gap widens gradually
throughout as years of schooling rise.
The increased participation of women in the labour market impacts overall
inequality: while their share of the wage bill has increased and they have gradually
50
60
70
80
90
1990s 2000s
Fig. 8 Gender wage gap among people with high wage levels and tertiary education. Sources:
Household surveys. Note: Population was classified according to their wages in three levels: low,
middle and high
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
236
moved up the educational ladder, they have found the more skilled occupations to
have higher gender wage gaps so that overall inequality has risen on that account.
Interestingly, the group that combines high wages with the highest average years
of schooling is also the most resistant to this egalitarian trend. It seems that this
group does not obey a logic that is purely economic but that there is an invisible
barrier against incorporating these new actors into decision-making positions.
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
237
Appendix 1: Gender Inequality
Country Year
Inequality
measures
(%)
Income
share
(%)
Gender
gap
Total Men Women Men Women
1990s Argentina 1992 0.40 0.41 0.39 0.63 0.37 93
Bolivia 1997 0.59 0.60 0.55 0.69 0.31 79
Chile 1990 0.55 0.56 0.52 0.76 0.24 76
Colombia 1996 0.49 0.49 0.47 0.65 0.35 90
Costa Rica 1992 0.40 0.39 0.42 0.72 0.28 98
Ecuador 1995 0.54 0.53 0.57 0.67 0.33 91
El Salvador 1991 0.52 0.51 0.53 0.66 0.34 86
Guatemala 2000 0.58 0.56 0.60 0.67 0.33 85
Honduras 1997 0.54 0.56 0.50 0.69 0.31 78
Nicaragua 1993 0.54 0.57 0.49 0.36 0.34 90
Paraguay 1997 0.54 0.55 0.53 0.66 0.34 88
Peru 1997 0.53 0.54 0.52 0.67 0.33 82
Uruguay 1992 0.45 0.45 0.45 0.64 0.36 83
Venezuela 1992 0.37 0.36 0.36 0.70 0.30 86
2000s Argentina 2006 0.43 0.42 0.43 0.60 0.40 100
Bolivia 2005 0.58 0.58 0.58 0.67 0.33 88
Brazil 2008 0.54 0.55 0.53 0.63 0.37 87
Chile 2006 0.51 0.51 0.51 0.69 0.31 89
Costa Rica 2006 0.43 0.43 0.45 0.67 0.33 99
Colombia 2006 0.54 0.54 0.54 0.58 0.42 95
Ecuador 2006 0.51 0.49 0.53 0.58 0.42 95
El Salvador 2005 0.45 0.46 0.45 0.58 0.42 89
Guatemala 2006 0.52 0.52 0.51 0.67 0.33 100
Honduras 2006 0.51 0.51 0.50 0.60 0.40 97
Nicaragua 2005 0.52 0.55 0.45 0.70 0.30 85
Peru 2006 0.52 0.53 0.51 0.67 0.33 81
Paraguay 2007 0.57 0.59 0.54 0.65 0.35 84
Uruguay 2006 0.48 0.49 0.47 0.58 0.42 93
Venezuela 2006 0.38 0.36 0.40 0.63 0.37 95
Average
1990s
0.50 0.51 0.49 0.66 0.32 86
Average
2000s
0.50 0.50 0.49 0.63 0.37 92
Sources: Household surveys
The Lingering Face of Gender Inequality in Latin America
238
Appendix 2: Gender Inequality in High Income Level and Tertiary
Education Population
Country Inequality measures (%)
Income share
(%) Gender gap
Total Men Women Men Women
1990s Argentina 0.35 0.38 0.29 0.54 0.46 67
Bolivia 0.41 0.43 0.34 0.68 0.32 68
Chile 0.49 0.50 0.38 0.76 0.24 53
Colombia 0.38 0.40 0.32 0.63 0.37 70
Costa Rica 0.31 0.31 0.29 0.68 0.32 79
Ecuador 0.38 0.38 0.37 0.66 0.34 78
El Salvador 0.40 0.42 0.28 0.76 0.24 63
Guatemala 0.44 0.45 0.35 0.79 0.21 62
Honduras 0.41 0.43 0.30 0.72 0.28 60
Nicaragua 0.47 0.47 0.44 0.69 0.31 72
Paraguay 0.44 0.46 0.35 0.70 0.30 64
Peru 0.38 0.40 0.32 0.66 0.34 78
Uruguay 0.40 0.40 0.32 0.61 0.39 57
Venezuela 0.25 0.25 0.23 0.63 0.37 77
2000s Argentina 0.28 0.30 0.26 0.45 0.55 89
Bolivia 0.38 0.41 0.31 0.64 0.36 80
Brazil 0.46 0.47 0.42 0.57 0.43 66
Chile 0.48 0.50 0.42 0.63 0.37 68
Costa Rica 0.33 0.35 0.27 0.61 0.39 69
Colombia 0.40 0.41 0.39 0.51 0.49 87
Ecuador 0.47 0.43 0.51 0.59 0.41 85
El Salvador 0.30 0.34 0.26 0.50 0.50 86
Guatemala 0.45 0.46 0.32 0.77 0.23 56
Honduras 0.36 0.36 0.34 0.60 0.40 80
Nicaragua 0.47 0.50 0.40 0.67 0.33 63
Paraguay 0.40 0.43 0.34 0.62 0.38 65
Peru 0.38 0.41 0.32 0.63 0.37 83
Uruguay 0.39 0.42 0.34 0.47 0.53 67
Venezuela 0.28 0.32 0.25 0.49 0.51 83
Average 1990s 0.39 0.41 0.33 0.68 0.32 68
Average 2000s 0.39 0.41 0.33 0.58 0.42 75
Sources: Household surveys
M.M. Camou and S. Maubrigades
239
Appendix 3: Distribution of the Population with Tertiary Education
According to Income
Country Income levels
Men Women
Low Medium High Low Medium High
1990s Argentina 24.6 11.0 64.4 23.2 17.7 59.1
Bolivia 2.5 16.7 80.8 3.3 17.4 79.3
Chile 4.0 10.4 85.6 7.6 21.0 71.4
Colombia 1.8 7.5 90.7 1.6 12.3 86.1
Costa Rica 0.9 5.6 93.5 4.4 5.9 89.7
El Salvador 2.5 3.1 94.4 1.1 6.5 92.5
Guatemala 4.4 4.4 91.2 5.8 10.7 83.5
Honduras 1.5 5.8 92.7 0.0 8.8 91.2
Nicaragua 1.7 16.9 81.4 3.5 25.6 70.9
Paraguay 0.6 1.7 97.8 0.0 7.8 92.2
Peru 5.8 20.2 74.0 8.0 23.6 68.3
Uruguay 5.8 14.2 80.0 4.6 21.3 74.1
Venezuela 5.6 11.1 83.3 5.6 11.1 83.3
2000s Argentina 8.8 19.4 71.8 10.5 19.4 70.1
Bolivia 2.4 7.5 90.1 3.7 9.0 87.3
Brazil 4.6 9.5 85.9 4.6 12.0 83.5
Chile 5.5 11.8 82.7 8.6 16.6 74.8
Costa Rica 2.8 2.4 94.8 2.1 5.9 91.9
Colombia 6.1 13.3 80.7 7.0 12.2 80.8
Ecuador 13.1 15.6 71.3 21.1 15.8 63.2
El Salvador 11.5 5.3 83.2 7.3 7.0 85.7
Guatemala 1.4 3.4 95.2 5.6 5.0 89.4
Honduras 4.8 5.3 89.9 4.3 3.2 92.5
Nicaragua 4.5 6.2 89.3 4.7 9.2 86.1
Paraguay 2.7 8.0 89.4 4.4 9.1 86.6
Peru 8.0 21.1 70.9 12.5 23.2 64.3
Uruguay 5.6 11.4 83.0 5.7 12.8 81.5
Venezuela 4.6 16.2 79.3 6.0 17.6 76.5
Sources: Household surveys
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María Magdalena Camou has a Ph.D. in Economic History from Universidad de la República,
Uruguay, where she is a Professor in the Economic and Social History Program. Her main research
lines are labor markets during industrialization, international comparative wages, living standards,
and gender inequality. She is one of the authors and editors of Gender Inequalities and Development
in Latin America During the Twentieth Century and several other books and articles.
Silvana Maubrigades is a Sociologist. She holds an M.A. in Economic History and is a Ph.D.
candidate in Social Sciences with mention in Economic History from Universidad de la República,
Uruguay. She is a professor at the Economic and Social History Program at the Social Sciences
Faculty in the same university. Her main research fields are gender, labor market, wage inequality,
and development.
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... Generally speaking, women are significantly more deprived in the indicators income and tenure than men, while they are less deprived in terms of the indicator excessive working hours (which unfortunately does not include hours dedicated to unpaid domestic and care work). 49 Although the wage gap has been widely documented in the literature (Camou & Maubrigades, 2017;Carrillo, Gandelman, & Robano, 2014;Hoyos & Nopo, 2010;Nopo, 2009;Panizza & Qiang, 2005), the ''tenure gap" has not been extensively documented, although some studies do 47 Note that this kind of disaggregation cannot easily be undertaken with dashboard indicators as a separate board would have to be generated for each sub-group studied. 48 See Table A4 show that women enter and exit the labour market more frequently than men as they take on tasks of domestic care (Arza, 2017;Blofield & Martínez, 2014;Hite & Viterna, 2005) and this translates into lower human capital investment. ...
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... From the 1980 onwards the region experienced a slowdown in population growth (0.7 per cent). As part of this demographic transition, there was a steady decline in participation rates in the middle period, which was only reversed in the early 1970s with a deceleration in population growth and a rapid rise in the number of women in the labour force (Camou and Maubrigades 2017). ...
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... The same calculations for the 1930-1950 period shows a more even process with population and EAP growth both at 57%. As to female participation rates, there were few changes in 1940-1970, and an explosive growth in participation from 1970 to 2000(Camou and Maubrigades, 2016).20 Azevedo et al. (2013) looks at the factors behind the recent decline in income inequality in fourteen countries in the region (Venezuela is excluded). ...
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This paper offers for the first time income shares of the top 10% and the bottom 40% of the labour force for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela in the period 1900-2011. The main findings are: i) over the whole period the top 10% share is, on average, 51.3% and the bottom 40% share 13.2%; ii) in the last thirty years the gap between both tails widened (54.6% vs. 11.9%), despite narrowing inequality in the 2000s; iii) there is no inequality levelling in the middle decades of the last century as experienced in the rich economies. This new long-term evidence confirms that the recent shared decline in inequality has no precedent in the 20th century; but it also shows that, as in the past, high concentration at the top and a relatively low-income share of the bottom 40% continues to be the region's inequality trademark. 1
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The process of economic development is inherently about change. Change in where people live, in what they produce and in how they produce it, in how much education they get, in how long and in how well they live, in how many children they have, and so on. So much change, and the fact that at times it takes place at such sur- prising speed, must affect the way incomes and wealth are distrib- uted, as well as the overall size of the pie. While considerable efforts have been devoted to the understanding of economic growth, the economic analysis of the mechanisms through which growth and development affect the distribution of welfare has been rudimentary by comparison. Yet understanding development and the process of poverty reduction requires understanding not only how total income grows within a country but also how its distribution behaves over time. Our knowledge of the dynamics of income distribution is presently limited, in part because of the informational inefficiency of the scalar inequality measures generally used to summarize dis- tributions. Single numbers can often hide as much as they show. But recent improvements in the availability of household survey data for developing countries, and in the capacity of computers to process them, mean that we should be able to do a better job comprehend- ing the nature of changes in the income distribution that accompany the process of economic development. We hope that this book is a step in that direction. By looking at the evolution of the entire distribution of income over reasonably long periods—10 to 20 years—and across a diverse set of societies—four in Latin America and three in East Asia—we have learned a great deal about a variety of development experi- ences, and how similar building blocks can combine in unique ways, to shape each specific historical case. But we have also learned about the similarities in some of those building blocks: the complex effect of educational expansion on income inequality, the remarkable role of increases in women’s participation in the labor force, and the importance of reductions in family size, to name a few. We have learned that the complexity of the interactions between these forces is so great that aggregate approaches to the relationship between growth and distribution are unlikely to be of much use for any particular country. We have also learned that some common patterns can be discerned and, with appropriate care and humility, understanding them might be helpful to policymakers seeking to enhance the power of development to reduce poverty and inequity. We hope that readers might share some of the joy we found in uncovering the stories behind the distributional changes in each of the countries studied in this book. François Bourguignon Francisco H. G. Ferreira Nora Lustig
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