Clothing exports and career paths for women in developing countries »


It is well established that bringing more women into the formal labor force is essential to economic development. An oft-cited strategy is to further integrate developing countries into global trade, particularly global value chains (GVCs), to contribute to female labor market outcomes through the expansion of female-intensive industries. As a result, a big, frequently debated question is whether the garment industry – which is the most feminised and engaged manufacturing industry globally – can be a key player in this regard. In recent decades, the garment industry has shifted its production to low-wage developing countries, increasing the demand for women, narrowing the gender wage gap, and bringing women into the formal labor force . Indeed, the benefits of apparel exports have reached the female population, but is an export strategy focused on apparel sufficient to induce the transition from jobs to careers? A new report, “From Jobs to Careers: Apparel Exports and Career Paths for Women in Developing Countries” provides an answer by focusing on seven countries where the apparel industry plays a significant role in its export basket – Bangladesh , Cambodia, Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Vietnam. The main conclusion of the report is that countries should leverage the garment industry as a launch pad to overcome the fixed costs of bringing more women into the workforce. However, for this approach to work, complementary policies are needed that address the barriers that prevent women from continuing their long-term participation in the labor force and higher paying jobs. One hope is to change the paradigm of how we think about women’s participation in the labor market by demonstrating the importance of the distinction between jobs and careers. Although career aspirations are realized in different ways, understanding how progress is being made in each country towards a more equitable life between men and women will pave the way for a better path forward.

During this seminar, Gladys Lopez-Acevedo, Senior Economist and Global Lead, Global Poverty and Equity Practice, Raymond Robertson, Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Services, Texas A&M University and Mexico A. Vergara Bahena, Consultant, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank, presented the main findings of the report.

Date hour :

Friday, January 14, 2022, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. (Japan Standard Time)


Gladys Lopez-Acevedo
Principal Economist and Global Head, Global Poverty and Equity Practice, World Bank

Gladys Lopez-Acevedo is a Senior Economist and Global Lead at the World Bank in the Global Practice on Poverty and Equity. She works primarily in the South Asia and Middle East and North Africa regions of the World Bank. Gladys’ areas of analytical and operational interest include trade, welfare, gender, conflict and jobs. Previously, she served as a Principal Economist in the Office of the World Bank’s Chief Economist for the South Asia Region (SARCE) and a Principal Economist in the Central Vice Presidency Unit of the World Bank in charge of poverty reduction and economic management (PREM) and in the Latin America region at the World Bank. She is a researcher at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA) and the Mexican National Research System (SNI). Prior to joining the World Bank, she held senior positions in the Mexican government and was a professor at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She holds a BA in Economics from ITAM and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Virginia.

Raymond Robertson
Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Services, Texas A&M University

Raymond Robertson is the Helen and Roy Ryu Professor of Economics and Government in the Department of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is also director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy at Texas A&M University. He is a research fellow at the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn and a senior fellow at the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center at Southern Methodist University. He has taught at Syracuse University and the Monterrey Institute of Technology campus in Mexico City. Widely published in the field of labor economics and international economics, he previously chaired the US Department of Labor’s National Advisory Committee on the Labor Provisions of US Free Trade Agreements; he has served on both the State Department’s International Economic Policy Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board of the Center for Global Development. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Mexico A. Vergara Bahena
Consultant, Global Poverty and Equity Practice, World Bank

Mexico A. Vergara Bahena is a consultant with the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice. He has worked on women’s labor participation and the distributional effects of trade in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regions. Previously, he worked as an economist in the International Economics Division of the Bank of Mexico. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, as well as a master’s degree in applied economics from ITAM.

Presentation material:

From Jobs to Careers: Garment Exports and Career Paths for Women in Developing Countries (PDF)

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