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GST Knowledge Product Series


Strengthening the Role of Youth in Gender-equitable and Inclusive Trade - Policy Brief

Although youth theoretically stand to benefit from trade, and trade can gain from increased youth participation, young women and men face structural and capacity barriers to participating in trade as entrepreneurs and employees. This brief summarises a paper that investigates the challenges to participation of young women and men in trade and the lessons learned from the policies and programmes that can address these barriers. The brief then makes recommendations on actions that can addressing remaining gaps and enhance the engagement of youth in gender-responsive and inclusive trade.


Investigating the Role of Youth in Gender Equitable and Inclusive Trade

Young women and men play critical roles in trade, as entrepreneurs, skilled workers, cross-border traders, and consumers, yet face structural and capacity barriers to participating in trade. This paper investigates the participation of young women and men in trade with a focus on their entrepreneurial and employee roles. It considers the challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which youth are more likely to own or run. In the absence of age-disaggregated data, the authors use the World Bank Enterprise Surveys to assess the characteristics and the barriers faced by SMEs engaged in global value chains. This is complemented by literature and qualitative evidence that can be applied to the experience of youth. The paper then investigates the situation of youth in employment by considering the gap in skilled labour faced by trading firms that can be addressed by youth, with a particular focus on digital skills. A gender mainstreaming approach is applied throughout to assess the differences in the experiences of young women and men. The analysis then considers successful policy, private sector, and partner interventions to address these gaps and highlights the newer trend of integrating youth considerations in trade agreements. Findings suggest that the primary challenge faced by youth-owned or -led smaller trading firms is access to finance and that greater integration in global value chains allows SMEs to overcome barriers related to factors of production. Trading firms may provide more stable and skilled employment for young women and increased opportunities for youth if successful policies and programmes to address a labour-skills mismatch are scaled. Youth participation in leadership and decision-making can address sustainability and impact gaps through a holistic approach involving capacity building and mentorship. Existing experience and evidence show initial successes and provide insight into approaches stakeholders can take at the level of trade agreements, policy, and implementation to ensure young women and men fully benefit from trade and trade outcomes are enhanced as a result. The paper ultimately argues that policies and programmes to encourage and ensure the full participation of youth in trade in all their roles can address market gaps and enhance trade. 


Making Trade Agreements Work for People with Disabilities: What’s been Achieved and What Remains Undone?

Trade agreements create both “winners” as well as “losers,” as they benefit some and leave others without benefits or with negative ramifications. In particular, the distributional outcomes of trade can vary between people with and without disability, since they generally have different levels of access to and control over resources, and disparate abilities to access and exercise their rights. Hence, if trade policies are designed without taking into account their impact on who has power and opportunities and who doesn’t, these policies can magnify the existing inequalities. It is therefore important that future trade agreements are negotiated and implemented with an inclusive lens to ensure that people with disability have equal access to the opportunities and benefits of international trade and that these instruments are used as a tool to minimize any potential negative impact they might otherwise have on people with disabilities.



The multi-faceted crisis of the global health pandemic presents an opportunity to explore how trade policies, including the pursuit of free trade agreements (FTAs)1, can contribute to women’s empowerment in the context of economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 world.

Some existing FTAs seek to enhance women’s empowerment through the inclusion of gender-specific provisions of various kinds. This study presents a regional survey of these provisions and raises proposals for further advancement of gender-related issues in trade agreements.


Gender Gaps, Services Trade and Policy Tools to Contribute to Gender Equality (2021)

In developing economies, the service sector generates about 55% of national product and half of total female employment. Manufacturing, mining and agriculture account for the rest. Services also account for a significant share of exports, particularly when services that are traded indirectly, through their incorporation in exported goods, are included. Despite its predominance, little analysis has been done so far of the links between trade in services and employment outcomes by gender. This study aims to fill part of this gap. Authors: Andrea Lassmann and Nanno Mulder


Gender and investment agreements - building on best practices to include gender in investment agreements (2021)

This Guide explains how the regulation of FDI has evolved, why Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) needs to be addressed in international investment treaties and the ways in which this can be implemented, along with the associated challenges. It is a basic ‘crossover’ guide for audiences based in two very different domains of policymaking: investment law and policymakers and negotiators on the one hand and gender equality ministries and civil society stakeholders, on the other. Author: Kamala Dawar

La dimension de genre dans les accords d’investissement


Advancing Gender Equality through Voluntary Standards (2020)

One way to contribute to women’s empowerment in international trade and gender equality are voluntary sustainability standards. They have emerged as one of the main tools used to articulate, encourage and enforce sustainable and ethical practices in global value chains. Author: Sally Smith


Guidance Note - Data Analysis for Gender and Trade Assessments (2020)

The first step in gender-aware economic analysis involves building the statistical picture of an economy as a gendered structure. Such a picture, if appropriately disaggregated in terms of production sectors, workers’ and households’ characteristics can provide a useful baseline from which to track the direct and indirect effects of trade changes by gender. By highlighting existing inequalities, it can help assess whether proposed trade reforms and agreements are likely to redress or intensify bottlenecks to women’s access to economic resources and opportunities. It can also guide the selection of relevant indicators for ex-post monitoring. Author: Marzia Fontana

Guía para el análisis de datos sobre género y comercio


Primer on Gender and Trade (2020)

How has the regulation of international trade evolved and why is there are need for gender inequality and social inclusion to be addressed in rule-making for international trade? A basic ‘crossover’ guide for audiences based in two very different domains of policymaking: trade policymakers and negotiators on the one hand and gender equality ministries and civil society stakeholders, on the other. Autors: Susan Joekes with Alicia Frohmann and Marzia Fontana.

Genre et Commerce - Un Guide (2020)   

Manual sobre género y comercio (2020)

Other publications


OECD, Trade and Gender: A Framework of Analysis (2021)


Closing gender gaps makes good economic sense. Advancing the aim of women’s economic empowerment will require policy action across a wide range of areas, including increasing their participation in international trade. Although trade policies are not de jure discriminatory, they impact women and men differently due to dissimilar initial conditions. A framework is proposed for analysing the impacts of trade and trade policies on women that policy makers can use in order to ensure that trade and trade policies in their country support women’s economic empowerment.


International Trade Centre, Delivering on the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment. ITC, Geneva (2020)

Trade policy for women took an international leap with the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment, endorsed by more than 120 countries at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference of 2017.
This report, produced under the auspices of the International Gender Champions’ Trade Impact Group, presents related findings: recommendations and 32 good practices for gender-based analysis, global value chains, public procurement, trade agreements, digital trade and financial inclusion.

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UN WOMEN, From Insight to Action. Gender Equality in the Wake of COVID-19. UN (2020)

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International Trade Centre, Mainstreaming Gender in Free Trade Agreements. ITC, Geneva (2020)

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Collection of resources and current reporting on gender and
gender data related to COVID-19
(click here)

Screenshot_2020-04-16 Women at the core

OECD, Women at the core of the fight against COVID-19 crisis (2020)

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UN, Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women, United Nations (2020)


World Bank, Women, Business and the Law 2020 (2020)


CEPAL, Herramientas de política comercial para contribuir
a la igualdad de género
, Alicia Frohmann, our GESI Expert (2019)

Image by Markus Spiske
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