Women's Economic Participation in Chile

Chile’s economic experience of the past generation is a lesson for the world. Since Chile's return to democracy in 1990, the economy has expanded and poverty has diminished. These achievements are attributable to strong property rights, broad access to education, sound macroeconomic policy, well-run financial institutions, robust competition, and a pro-trade environment.

Still, the “behind the numbers” story of women in Chile’s economy has some surprises. For example, women’s labor participation rate is about 48 percent, far less than the rate for men (74 percent); wage differences between men and women are stark; and women are underrepresented in management and on company boards.

In this report we explore the participation of women in Chile’s economy through four priorities of APEC’s Policy Partnership on Women in the Economy: access to capital, access to markets, capacity and skills, and leadership. It was prepared as part of the U.S. government-supported APEC Technical Assistance and Training Facility (TATF) program.

We conclude that perhaps the most important way to further empower women in Chile is sustained reform of policies, laws, and programs to take a gender-neutral view of household management and child rearing. Gender neutrality in family law, employment law, and specific government-sponsored programs could reduce the relative expense of hiring women, broaden the labor pool, improve workforce quality and productivity, and allow men to participate more in family life.

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