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Also partly relevant for Micro/Macroeconomics, Public Finance, European Economics

Course: European Economics, Public Finance, Economics
Group of courses: Law, Economics and Social Sciences



Course objectives:

  • Describing and explaining economic inequality between men and women (causes, theoretical analysis)
  • Discussing the economic effects of this inequality
  • Analysing gender aspects of economic policy instruments and with regard to their efficiency in establishing equality
  • Recognising and critically reflecting on covert and open gender-related content in macroeconomic statements
  • Learning the paradigms/approaches of feminist economics or gender economics.


Teaching content/subject-specific gender studies content:

Economics, particularly in German-speaking countries, is a strongly male-dominated discipline. Gender subjects are treated as marginal. This applies particularly to textbooks, which of course pass on the discipline's "canon" of knowledge. From a staffing point of view, only the natural sciences and engineering disciplines are similarly gender-segregated. Top positions (chairs at universities, directorships of economic research institutes and leading consulting bodies) are almost entirely occupied by men. The reasons are partly unrelated to the discipline itself. However, the rigid, mathematical-scientific orientation of economics methodology may well make it less attractive for women and also prevent relevant subject matter from being covered. This applies both to the neoclassical mainstream and to the increasingly formalised area of Keynesian macroeconomics.

The lack or distorted perception of gender relations in economics centres on:

  1. The neglect of economic activities that do not take place directly via markets or the public sector, particularly domestic work mainly performed by women, but also voluntary work and unofficial or illegal work, for example
  2. The failure to address inequality and conflicts between the genders.

Additionally, scholars working on gender or feminist themes are in a stark minority as in other academic disciplines. However, such scholars find it particularly difficult to develop their careers and become established in disciplines with monopolistic methodology structures such as economics.

  • Economists carrying out gender research can be classified according to whether they argue primarily within the parameters of the neoclassical mainstream and its offshoots (new institutional economics) or make use of pluralist heterodox methodologies (e. g. historical, descriptive-statistical, sociological, socioeconomic, Marxist).
  • Feminist economists arguing outside the neoclassical paradigm also subject the basic terms and concepts of the discipline to fundamental critique. Instead of unilaterally concentrating analysis on the economic processes of paid labour usually modelled as conflict-free they call for the inclusion of non-market institutions and all relevant resources, societal hierarchies and conflicts, historical evolution conditions and social conditions of economic relations, social change, organised interests and collective action. The only economics textbook to date in the German language to integrate this fundamental critique is "Microeconomics in Kontext", cited below.

However, there are a number of textbooks on the subject of "the economy of gender relations" (see below). These provide information on how gender relations are conceived in various paradigms, concentrating on the areas of household production, the labour market and income distribution.

The following overview lists economic themes in gender studies (with no claim to completeness):

National Accounting

  • Consequences of the general exclusion of household production and non-market production from GDP
  • Household satellite system of the German Federal Statistical Office


  • Macroeconomic effects of an increasing supply of paid female labour and changes in household production on growth and employment
  • Effects of structural shifts between household production, state production and market production on equality, growth and employment
  • Different forms of coordinating gender relations, welfare regimes and employment policy
  • Effects of different macroeconomic concepts (Keynesian vs. Washington Consensus) on the socioeconomic situation of women

History of Economic Theory

  • Open or covert statements of economists on gender relations/ideology critique
  • Reconstruction of women's contributions to economics
  • History of women's access to economics teaching and research

Economic History

  • Changes in economic gender relations
  • History of household production and women's participation in paid labour
  • Role of state economic policy and the major economic interest associations in structuring gender relations

Economic Theory of the Family

  • Neoclassical-based approaches (incl. negotiation models) and their critique (Marxist and feminist approaches) specialisation, marriage/divorce, children
  • Gender-specific supply of labour neoclassical, Marxist, socioeconomic approaches; empirical studies and international comparisons
  • Economic effects of changing family structures

Family Policy

  • Aims; theoretical foundation; instruments (transfers incl. tax benefits/married couples' tax bonuses, social services, rights of release from work for caring purposes); effects, particularly on gender equality, but also on birth rates; family income/income distribution, supply of female paid labour, employment
  • International comparisons

Gender-specific Qualifications

  • Gender-specific segregation of the basic, vocational and further education systems
  • Gender-specific construction and evaluation of qualifications
  • Economic evaluation of this segmentation, particularly regarding efficiency
  • Specific groups, especially migrants
  • Political consequences

Gender in the Labour Market

  • Description and explanation of gender-specific segmentation/segregation (by occupations/industries); analyses of occupations and industries
  • Description and explanation of gender-specific earnings differences
  • Human capital theory, neoclassical discrimination theories, feminist-socioeconomic approaches
  • Empirical study of gender-specific earnings differences, particularly regression-analytical study
  • General wage structure differentiation and gender-specific earnings differences
  • 'Atypical' employment conditions and gender-specific earnings differences


Labour Market Policy in the Broader Sense

  • Effects of labour market policy instruments in the broader sense on gender relations (labour market policy measures in the narrower sense in Germany: the measures of the Federal Employment Agency), collectively agreed wage structure policy; statutory minimum wages; promotion of low-pay sector; employment protection laws; vocational education policy, particularly construction of women's and men's occupations; specific groups: migrants; unpaid family workers, people with severe disabilities etc.)
  • Gender-specific effects of (regional) structural policy on promotion of SMEs, other structural policy measures
  • Effects of anti-discrimination and laws promoting women (affirmative action) on efficiency and gender equality; international comparison (particularly with USA)
  • Comparable worth

Public Finance

  • Gender budgeting
  • Effects of taxation on the economic situation of the genders (income distribution, decisions on labour supply, other incentive effects)

Social Policy

  • Welfare regimes and gender relations
  • Gender-specific effects of welfare systems (particularly unemployment, pension, long-term care and health insurance)
  • Social services, female occupations, household production (care/childcare)
  • Gender-specific poverty risks, basic benefits (social benefit, unemployment benefit), single parents, child poverty
  • International comparison


  • Gender-specific income and asset distribution (see other areas for detailed issues)

International Relations

  • Measurement of development level including gender
  • Description and explanation of the economic role and situation of women in poor countries
  • Development of the economic situation of women in transforming countries
  • Economic role and situation of women in emerging countries
  • Effects of exports/imports/direct investments on the economic situation of women, effects of financial crises and international financial policy on the economic situation of women in developing countries
  • Consequences for development and transformation policy
  • Female migrants
  • Trafficking
  • Population policy
  • Child labour


Integration of gender studies content into the curriculum:

A specific "gender module" is both conceivable and appropriate. At the University of Economics and Politics (now integrated into the University of Hamburg), for example, I regularly offer a four-hour course on the economic theory and politics of gender relations in the 5th semester (Bachelor's degree). This type of course offers a good opportunity for reviewing and extending economic knowledge and analytical skills and critically reflecting on the effectiveness of existing economic models. Further independent modules could deal with gender aspects of the transformation of economic systems and economic development. As shown above, many of the themes dealt with in an independent module could also be integrated into more specialised courses (e. g. labour market and employment, public finance, social policy, distribution, history of economic theory, economic history, development, transformation). However, there is generally a lack of suitable staff for integrating the content into existing courses. Most faculty members are neither sufficiently motivated nor qualified to include gender modules in their courses without further effort. Under the current conditions, attempts to achieve such an integration are likely to result in gender issues becoming marginalised at least, that has been our experience with "gender-accentuated" courses.


Degree Stage:

A specific gender module should be offered in the second degree stage (second or third year of Bachelor's degrees), as students need a basic knowledge of micro- and macroeconomics and statistics first.

In the introductory phase (1st year), which is important for students' further socialisation, integrating gender issues is presumably only possible on the basis of examples, gender-specific empirical material, critique of basic concepts and terms (e. g. labour, income, etc.), i.e. in an unsystematic manner. Even this requires significant effort on the part of lecturers, as the existing introductory textbooks particularly those in German offer absolutely no support. However, there is now an American textbook (Goodwin et. al.) that gives a good introduction to economics and deals with gender relations appropriately.

In Master's programmes there are many possibilities as far as staffing allows for integrating gender modules or gender themes (e. g. European Studies: comparison of gender relations in Europe, Public Finance: gender budgeting using a sample budget, etc.)




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Prof. Dr. Dagmar Schiek