Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

NGOs, Multinational Enterprises and Gender Equality in Labor Markets: A Political Economy of Conflicting Interests?

Academic journal article Journal of Multidisciplinary Research

NGOs, Multinational Enterprises and Gender Equality in Labor Markets: A Political Economy of Conflicting Interests?

Article excerpt


In a global ongoing economic crisis, any growth resource should be fully utilized to pull out of the crisis. Nevertheless, despite advanced domestic legislation and extended international regulation, women's labor is a resource of growth still not fully utilized globally. Different reasons explain this fact. Often, domestic decision-makers and international organizations are held responsible for it. Less attention is paid to the effect on labor conditions globally, and on women's labor utilization particularly, of two hidden players acting behind the curtains: multinational enterprises (MNEs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) supporting women's rights. This essay explores the political economy behind a triangle of powers: women and NGOs representing them, governments and international economic organizations, and MNEs, analyzing political economy instruments and strategies used by NGOs and MNEs to promote their respective relevant interests in their relations with regulators, and assessing their effectiveness in achieving this goal. It suggests the current deficiencies of global and domestic efforts in this respect may reflect a compromise that both groups of interests can live with, but the global economic crisis may provide a momentum to pull out of this mutual comfort zone.


gender, NGOs, MNEs, labor, growth


Gender equality of labor markets is not a new notion. One way or another, academic literature as well as decision-makers have discussed it for many years. The International Labor Organization's (ILO) activity since 1919 (Landau & Beigbeder, 2008) may mark the beginning of the modern discourse on this issue. While, for many decades, the justification for gender equality of labor markets was based on basic human rights considerations, in recent decades, decision- makers are beginning to recognize the economic benefits of it. Gender equality of labor markets may lead to better utilization of a resource available in all countries: women's work, thus potentially enhancing global growth, which is particularly important to pull out of the global economic crisis taking place since 2008. Consequently, a growing effort for domestic and international regulation to enhance it is taking place in recent years (Munin, 2012).

Governments and international organizations, affecting the terms of global trade by regulation and its implementation, may be responsible for the insufficient utilization of this important and globally-available growth resource. Their efforts hitherto are considered nonsatisfactory. One question arising is to what extent this is the result of the activity of two important powers that pull the strings behind the curtains of global economic politics to advance their interests: on the one hand, powerful multinational enterprises (MNEs), which seem to enjoy the current situation (in particular, the availability of cheap - mainly feminine - labor, which is not in a position to strive for basic rights), and on the other hand, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) striving to achieve gender equality of labor markets. This article explores the political economy behind the efforts of these two groups, trying to assess to what extent they affect global labor market regulation by international economic organizations and governments. Section 1 briefly presents the barriers encountered by women who want to integrate in labor markets and the efforts made by international organizations and governments to facilitate such integration. Section 2 explores political economy instruments exercised by NGOs and MNEs to promote their respective interests in their interaction with international organizations and governments. Section 3 analyzes the effect of these efforts in terms of outcome, and its implications. Section 4 concludes.

The Barriers for Women's Integration in Labor Markets and the Efforts made by Governments and International Organizations to Remove Them

Different Reasons for Gender Inequality in Labor Markets

There are different reasons for gender inequality in labor markets. …

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