Trade liberalization brings opportunities and challenges for women in Uruguay

17 December 2014

UNCTAD workshop held in Montevideo considered the gender impact of Uruguay's increased primary good exports, dynamic services trade and more diverse trading partners.

Uruguay has a positive record regarding gender equality in the areas of education and health, as well as in the economic participation of men and women. With one of the highest female labour force participation rates in the region, Uruguay has been growing steadily in the last three decades.

The process of trade liberalization and regional integration that Uruguay has undertaken has been gradual but it has brought a profound transformation of the country's productive structure, trade patterns and patterns of specialization.

Women have been shielded to a large extent from these shifts because the work mostly in non-tradable sectors.

However, for those women in tradable sectors, it appears that the shifts in the structural composition of the economy have not been particularly favourable: while the expansion of the agricultural sector has not translated into more employment opportunities for women, the growth of the services sector has not sufficiently increased women's access to more qualified and better paid jobs.

These were among the conclusions reached at the workshop held in Montevideo on 4 December 2014, organized by UNCTAD and Uruguay's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Among the presenters were:

  • Minister of Social Development Daniel Olesker

  • Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Porto

  • United Nations Resident Coordinator Denise Cook

  • UNCTAD's Director of the Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities Guillermo Valles

Senior staff from several ministries were also present, along with representatives of the private sector and the academic community. The workshop provided the opportunity to discuss the preliminary version of the UNCTAD's study: Who is benefiting from trade liberalization in Uruguay? A gender perspective.

UNCTAD has conducted research on the impact of trade policy on gender equality and women's wellbeing in seven countries and authored studies on each.

UNCTAD's country studies map women's roles in the economy and comprehensively study the employment, consumption and revenue effects of trade on women.

By disaggregating all likely outcomes by gender, these studies contribute to policy formulation by keeping considerations of equality at the front and center of the analysis.

In short, they represent an attempt at what gender mainstreaming in action means.