What do you want to know?
In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), women’s participation in wage labour is significantly lower than that of men. In addition, women’s participation is often clustered in particular sectors of the economy that are not well-remunerated and have lower prestige. In response to this challenging gendered nature of wage labour markets in LMICs, a range of interventions and policies have been proposed to increase women’s employment, but it is not clear what programme approaches and design features are most effective. In order to provide a reliable overview and synthesis of this diverse evidence base, we conducted a systematic review of all the available impact evaluation evidence on the effects of interventions aiming to support women’s wage labour participation in higher-growth/male-dominated sectors.
What did we find?
This systematic review provided an evidence map and structured synthesis on the effects of interventions aiming to support women’s participation in wage labour in higher-growth/male-dominated sectors in LMICs. We identified a small evidence base that is heterogeneous in terms of the applied labour market interventions and of low quality in terms of the methodological trustworthiness of studies and consistency of effects. Given the limitations of this evidence base, our review only identified a single intervention grouping in which we could conduct a rigorous synthesis: combined training and job placement interventions. Our meta-analysis provided cautious evidence that combined training and job placement interventions are an effective intervention approach to increase women’s wage labour participation in higher-growth/male-dominated sectors in LMICs (resulting in a 7.8% increase in women’s wage employment and a 7.2% increase in women’s income). For all other labour market interventions identified in this systematic review, the size and nature of the underlying primary research evidence base does not allow for a rigorous synthesis of effects.
What are implications?
At this stage the overall evidence base on interventions supporting women’s wage labour participation in higher-growth/male-dominated sectors is limited. The evidence base does not provide a clear picture of interventions that could be recommended for scale-up. Of all the reviewed interventions, training programmes combined with placement services show the most promise. The best evidence in this regard comes from two intervention models: the World Bank’s AGI and the Jovenes approach. These two intervention models for combining training and placement services come closest to a design template for promising interventions. In terms of more granular intervention design implications, seven promising design attributes were identified: (1) exposure to labour market participation enhancing social norms; (2) labour demand-led intervention design; (3) gender-sensitive intervention design; (4) provision of soft/life skills and social empowerment training; (5) participant profiling and targeting; (6) clear governance structures for intervention providers; (7) flexibility and responsiveness in intervention implementation and design.
Who conducted this review?
Laurenz Langer from the Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) led this review. He worked closely with a team comprising other ACE colleagues as well as colleagues from the EPPI Centre and the African Centre for Systematic Reviews and Knowledge Translation.
This report should be cited as:
Langer L, Erasmus Y, Tannous N, Obuku E, Ravat Z, Chisoro C, Opondo M, Nduku P, Tripney J, van Rooyen C, Stewart R (2018) Women in wage labour: A systematic review of the effectiveness and design features of interventions supporting women’s participation in wage labour in higher-growth and/or male-dominated sectors in LMICs. Technical report. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education, University College London.