Women and Trade: The Role of Trade in Promoting Gender Equality



World Trade Organization and the World Bank Group

The WTO and the World Bank launched the joint publication “Women and Trade: The role of trade in promoting gender equality” at a virtual event on 30 July. Gaining a better understanding of how women can benefit from trade is essential in ensuring that trade works for all and that its benefits are sustained in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu.

“The report comes out at an opportune time. The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked the deepest economic recession of our lifetimes. Recent WTO analysis shows that women risk losing some really hard-won progress towards greater gender equality because of this crisis. Looking forward, I have no doubt we need to lay the foundations for a strong, sustainable, and inclusive economic recovery. To build back better, we need to ensure that women are able to benefit from trade,” DG Azevêdo said at the launch.

“Although this research was done before the global pandemic, its conclusions are more relevant than ever. Gaining a better understanding of how women are affected by trade will be essential as countries develop and the global economy recovers from the pandemic. I hope the discussion today can help policy makers identify the potential opportunities that trade can provide for women and businesses and buttress support for a more inclusive rules-based trading system,” Ms Pangetsu said.

The publication features new data and analysis on how women benefit from trade in different ways to men in terms of wages, welfare gains and the quality and quantity of jobs available to them. It draws from a new dataset which, for the first time, provides labour data broken down by gender at the industry level for 72 countries. It also draws from the first database on explicit gender-related provisions in regional trade agreements.

The report finds that firms engaged in international trade employ a higher percentage of women than non-exporting firms (33% on average compared to 24% per cent for non-exporting firms). It also features findings on how trade increases wages, improves working conditions and is linked to higher levels of gender equality.

The report identifies trends pointing to opportunities for the further empowerment of women, namely the rise in services, the expansion of global value chains and the growing digital economy. It highlights trade policies countries could introduce to harness these opportunities, such as lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers on goods produced and consumed largely by women, further opening trade in services, and helping women traders and small enterprises benefit from market opportunities through trade facilitation measures and greater availability of trade finance.

The WTO has a key role to play, the report stresses. Ongoing talks related to services, agriculture (which employs a large number of women in developing countries), electronic commerce and micro, small and medium sized enterprises are key to identifying and eliminating barriers to women’s participation in trade. The WTO also provides a forum where members discuss tariff and non-tariff barriers across a range of sectors and members’ trade policies. Improving transparency on gender-related policies can help establish good practices and draw attention to the challenges that women face in participating in world trade.

The report highlights the need for complementary policies aimed at increasing opportunities for women in education, increasing access to finance, and enhancing information technology skills to maximize the gains from trade for women. In addition, collective efforts are required from governments, international organizations and the private sector to promote the role of trade in improving gender equality.


To read the full report, click here.