What Do We Know about the Economic Situation of Women, and What Does It Mean for a Just Economy?

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The economic situation of women today provides a critical test of the efficiency and justice of our economic system. A true account of the role of women in the contemporary world includes acknowledging enormous disparities and close interdependence among continents, as in the case of the “global care chain,” where poor women from developing nations travel to wealthy nations to care for the children of well-to-do families in order to send money home to care for their own children. It also requires addressing questions about women’s empowerment and dignity, whose answers pertain to the sphere of relationships, perceptions, expectations, and beliefs. It is curious to observe widespread consensus about the essential role of women and families in economic and social development and yet so little reflection (let alone dialogue) on what it truly means to be a woman, or a family. Christian anthropology provides the basis for a convincing, and convenient, way to explore what “true” flourishing of women and society means. The first part of this chapter offers a broad review of consensus indicators and empirical findings concerning women’s economic situation, in both medium-high and low income countries. They provide a helpful map of poverty and inequality faced by women, but they seem unable to answer essential questions about the true situation of women. The second part of this paper explores the issues of efficiency and justice faced by women in a framework where generative actions occupy a central role. It reviews current lines of economic research about measuring well being and societal progress “beyond GDP,” and suggests going beyond the measurement of women’s “missing” GDP and rethinking the nature of the “care” economy. In particular, it critically assesses the notion of women’s empowerment, suggesting human dignity as more appropriate. The paper elaborates the idea that “generation” is at the heart of wealth creation, suggesting an inter-temporal, relational paradigm, where “true” development of persons and societies requires a generative dynamism driven by free personal actions that gratuitously circulate “received” gifts.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteThe True Wealth of Nations. Catholic Social Thought and Economic Life
Numero di pagine40
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2010


  • development
  • gender
  • relational perspective


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