Journal article

Defeminization, Structural Transformation and Technological Upgrading in Manufacturing

Article | 30 May 2021
Sheba Tejani and David Kucera
Development and Change, May 30, 2021


This article examines gendered employment implications of structural transformation and technological upgrading in manufacturing. It focuses on 14 countries that relied heavily on exports of labour-intensive and assembly industries that have long provided strategic entry points onto global markets. The study uses accounting decomposition methods to identify the drivers of changes in female shares of manufacturing employment as well as econometric analysis to assess the gendered impacts of technological upgrading. This study is the first to apply either of these methods at a detailed industry level as well as the first to estimate long-run relationships between women's representation in manufacturing employment and technological upgrading. The main findings are that within-industry effects on female shares of employment are generally more important than employment reallocation effects and that there is more often a negative than positive relationship between technological upgrading and female shares of employment at the country and industry levels. These negative effects of technological upgrading are found in four of the five strategic export-oriented industries — food, beverages and tobacco products; textiles; apparel, leather products and footwear; and motor vehicles. The article discusses the policy implications of these findings and of the defeminization of manufacturing employment more generally.

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