International trade and balance of payments statistics

Gender in Global Value Chains: the impact of trade on male and female employment


Recent years have seen growing concerns that the impact of globalisation may have created winners and losers and that more concerted efforts are needed to Make Trade Work for All. A significant focus of these efforts has been at the sectoral level and on the skills and occupations of the workers affected. However, partly reflecting limited data, there has been considerably less commentary on the gender impact of globalisation, particularly concerning whether the impact of structural shifts created by globalisation have had a disproportionate impact on female employment rates, when compared to the economy as a whole. 

Preliminary analyses produced by the OECD show that:

The share of male employment that is directly (i.e. employment in exporting firms sustained through exports) or indirectly (i.e. employment sustained through upstream supplies to exporting firms) dependent on trade is much higher than that of women (37% compared to 27%).

Shares of male and female FTE employment embodied in exports, 2014 (unweighted average of OECD countries included in the study)


In nearly all economies, women’s share in employment sustained by exports is significantly higher in indirect channels (i.e. at the upstream suppliers of firms that subsequently export) compared to direct channels (i.e. at the exporting enterprises themselves).

Share of women in direct and indirect domestic employment sustained by manufacturing exports, 2014(unweighted average of OECD countries included in the study)


The nature of the upstream participation also differs significantly between men and women. Whilst most upstream jobs are in the services sector for both men and women, for women this is disproportionately the case.

Upstream employment dependent on manufacturing exports, by gender and industry where the employment is generated (weighted average of OECD countries included in the study)


For more detailed results, including by country, consult: Women in Global Value Chains (PDF).

To some extent, the results are not altogether surprising, as variations in the participation of male and female employees in GVCs are largely accounted for by differences in female labour participation across industries (and the relative contribution of these industries to total trade). However confirming ‘a prioris’ and providing empirical estimates of dependencies is not without merit. For example, in sectors and countries that have seen significant growth through integration in GVCs, existing gender employment gaps may translate into rising whole economy gender wage gaps, thus exacerbating inequalities and reinforcing the importance of increasing female participation in these sectors. But equally the data recognise the scope for participation, and potential wage growth, in upstream sectors. 


Further work

It is important to consider the various caveats that underpin this work, and indeed all other current analyses of the impact of global value chains on employment, which means that the estimates should be viewed as upper-bounds. This reflects two factors. First, because they are based on industry averages, current TiVA indicators over-estimate the domestic value-added content of exports and the indirect domestic contribution (because within each industry, those firms that account for exports typically also have (much) higher imports than non-exporting firms). Second, the analyses do not correct for the higher labour productivity (and thus lower jobs per unit of value-added) that exporting firms typically display. 

The OECD Statistics and Data Directorate, in collaboration with statistical offices in Member States, is working to develop more granular data and additional information to address these concerns, as part of the work of the in the context of the OECD Committee on Statistics and Statistical Policy’s Expert Group on Extended Supply and Use Tables. An important component of this work involves the separate identification of different types of firms (e.g. exporting and non-exporting firms) in national Supply-Use and Input-Output tables (which form the core input, together with bilateral trade statistics, into the construction of Inter-Country Input-Output tables), including their employment, labour productivity and wages (within industries). With such information, much more precise and detailed analyses can be made, which will become available going forward. 


Further reading

> Trade - OLD 

> Trade in Value Added (TiVA)




OECD Statistics and Data Directorate at



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