Gender, equality and capabilities*

Judy Fudge

in The Role of Labour Standards in Development

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264911
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754098 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Original Paperbacks

Gender, equality and capabilities*

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This chapter considers the relationship between women's equality, care work, and sustainable development, and develops a conceptual framework that can be used to understand this complex relationship. The chapter is organized as follows. The second section briefly reviews the relationship between sustainable development, which includes the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) ‘Decent Work’ Agenda, and women's equality. It answers the question on what basis or dimension women's equality should be measured. Instead of assessing a range of potential answers, it focuses on Amartya Sen's notion of substantive freedom and his capabilities approach. The third section argues that women's equality, and especially the relationship between women's equality and responsibility for care work, illustrates both the promise of, and the limitations to, Sen's capabilities approach. The fourth section sketches some of the salient differences between paid and unpaid care work in the North and the South, which also considers the capacity of the ILO 2009 report, ‘Decent Work for Domestic Workers’, to respond to these differences. Drawing upon feminist scholars, the fifth section argues that, supplemented by a theory of choice, deliberative mechanisms, and a social theory of power, the capabilities approach can be a useful tool for conceptualising women's equality and for recognising the significance of socially necessary care work. The chapter concludes by suggesting that a robust capabilities approach designed to address gender inequality and to incorporate care work illuminates the limitations in the current approaches of antidiscrimination law for addressing women's inequality.

Keywords: women's equality; International Labour Organization; Amartya Sen; substantive freedom; capabilities approach

Chapter.  6162 words. 

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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