Work has long been the central object of research on gender inequality. The labour market is constantly undergoing changes; social relations keep shifting and gender continues to be produced and dismantled through the various issues connected to the sexual division of labour. In recent years, gender economics has become linked with the now-classic sociological question of gender/work (see the research of the MAGE network).
The field of gender economics brings together topics such as the division of labour, both on the labour market and in the home, or the place of women in the labour market, issues of segregation or discrimination. It also studies the connections between women’s empowerment and economic development. These topics can and are of course be also examined from a sociological or historical viewpoint. Nevertheless, when applied to gender and/or the inequalities between men and women, the specifically economic methodological tools can be very useful. For example, the measurement of discrimination (which seeks to neutralise the effect of the differences observed between men and women in order to highlight the "unexplained" salary gap) has been fundamental in critiquing the kinds of injustices to which women are subject. It also gives scientific solidity to the implementation of new public policies (see Axis 2). In this field, a great deal of work still remains to be done - and recent research has been trying to rectify this situation — in order to bring out, for example, the key mechanisms responsible for the so-called "glass ceiling", or the way in which gender inequalities appear and amplify in the course of professional careers. In this work, econometrics has proven to be an essential tool.
Theoretical modelling of decision-making within families represent another example of a booming area of research. It has important consequences, in terms of both scientific understanding and political economy. Thanks to the theoretical models of family negotiations, which specifically try to measure the women’s negotiation power in the household and its effects on children’s health and education, social programmes in many developing countries have been redirected to better respond to women’s needs. Here too, these models, which have been highly popular in recent economic literature and can be applied empirically to many different countries using comparative databases, should help us understand the underlying causes of the division of consumption and labour within households.
We could also cite the example of gender economic research dealing with micro-credit or with the choice of childbearing, or with the relationship between childbearing and the changes in wages, or finally the analysis of the connections between divorce and poverty. Although this research obviously benefits from interdisciplinary, it has also developed a number of new and innovative tools and techniques.
Because of the many strong connections between these theoretical and empirical models and public decision-making, it is important that these areas of research do not become the monopoly of researchers — who might be more interested in technical prowess than in the content and consequences of their findings — but is instead largely developed from a gender perspective.