This UNCTAD study adopts a comparative perspective to examine the trade and gender nexus in the context of regional integration by drawing upon case studies from two continents: East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). The findings of the study show both important differences and similarities between the two regional contexts.
With respect to gender mainstreaming in trade policy, the EAC started in a position ahead of MERCOSUR. The EAC has considered gender issues as part of its regional integration process since the beginning both through the provisions in the founding treaty and through the 2017 East African Gender Equality and Development Bill. In contrast, MERCOSUR did not introduce gender provisions in its foundational treaties; gender mainstreaming in regional integration polices was mainly driven by the mobilization of civil society groups (especially women's organizations).
In both regions, the process of regional integration has been accompanied by a shift of sectoral employment structures towards the services sector. Services absorb the largest share of total employment in MERCOSUR, especially for women, while agriculture continues to be the main sector of employment for women in the EAC. However, in services, women are segregated in lower-skilled services sectors - a pattern that is particularly evident in MERCOSUR.
Gender employment implications of regional integration in manufacturing also show important similarities across the two regions. In both regions, tariff liberalization in export markets contributed towards a feminization of labor in manufacturing (i.e. had a positive effect on the female employment share in manufacturing firms) mainly for production workers without any significant change for non-production ones.
In conclusion, despite differences in the stages of development, extent of gender inequalities, and legal frameworks on gender equality, the trade and gender implications of regional integration are very similar across the two regions. Hence, measures towards easing the access of women to employment in high-skilled, tradeable sectors may prove useful in both cases.