The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced this morning the Nobel Prize in economics for the American Claudia Goldin, who has dedicated her life to researching the role of women at work. What can Latin America learn from her research?
This year the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will award the Nobel Prize in economics to the American economist Claudia Goldin. Not only is Goldin the third woman to win it, but her contribution to this discipline consists, above all, in understanding the role of women at work and in the labor market.
In the words of the Nobel committee, Goldin is deserving of this prize “for having advanced our understanding of women’s outcomes in the workplace.” And it is precisely on this topic that Goldin’s research focuses: what is the role of women at work? What role does she play and how has working life changed for women in society?
Claudia Goldin: pioneer of economic studies with a gender approach
The above makes Goldin one of the pioneers of the gender approach in economic studies. The labor market, we know, is not the same for men as for women. It does not move or fluctuate in the same way for both sexes.
Although this seems obvious today, it was not always so clear. It is thanks to the work of researchers like Claudia Goldin that we have been able to more fully understand the problems that women face and the true role they play in the workplace.
Economic studies, therefore, urgently need a gender approach. This approach is what could answer the ways women work, contribute, benefit and are affected by work unlike men.
This field includes, of course, the issue of the wage gap. But this topic is just a primer, since Goldin’s studies do not stop there. The differences between men and women at work do not only lie in each person’s income or salaries. The gaps between the sexes are determined by many other factors, which are also the ones Goldin has paid attention to: technological changes, household dynamics, domestic tasks, unpaid daily jobs, economic behaviors and macroeconomic events such as COVID-19 pandemic.
What can Latin America learn from the new Nobel Prize in economics?
Like any illness we suffer from, to treat it, we must first observe it. So on the path to equality for women, we must advance in the understanding of inequality between the sexes. This is why Claudia Goldin’s work is so valuable: she has helped understand not only inequities but also the importance of women’s workforce.
Injustice between the sexes, of course, is not an evil that only the United States, the country in which Claudia Goldin was born, suffers from. In Latin America, the wage gap between the sexes is also an urgent issue to address. Added to this are other problems specific to the region: the overload of household chores, unaddressed domestic violence due to the economic dependence of women on men, rural dynamics, etc.
In Colombia, for example, a woman spends an average of 7 hours and 44 minutes a day on unpaid work (which can reach 8 and a half hours in rural areas), while men spend just three hours. These figures demonstrate that the wage gap is not the only factor causing inequalities between women and men.
Thus, research like that of Claudia Goldin can serve as a mirror to understand the sexist dynamics of Latin America. Of course, they will not be able to be translated literally to our region, since the history and economic context of the United States are different. However, Latin American academia and the nascent women’s ministries in the governments of the region can take these investigations as an example to understand the problems specific to each country.
Governments need to pay attention to the economic and social research with a gender perspective that is already being carried out in universities. And we also need to have our own research, that we should not adapt those from outside, but rather learn from them. Only in this way will we be able to truly understand and analyze solutions to the gender problems specific to the region.
It is also worth mentioning that equity does not refer to strict equality between men and women. Claudia Goldin’s multiple publications have demonstrated this. In interviews, the new Nobel Prize winner in economics has stated that the path towards justice between the sexes must include economic complexities. So some work dynamics or solutions, hybrid work, for example, can be functional especially for women more than for men.
Thus, understanding the violent dynamics that have historically been practiced against women in their complete complexity, governments can offer public policies in favor of women, since laws that recognize the power and importance of the female workforce are necessary.