Gender Differences in Automation Risk in Developing Country Labor Markets

This paper studies to what extent jobs done by women are more at risk of automation than jobs done by men, using recently collected data for urban labor markets in 13 low- and middle-income countries.

New technologies can lead to substantial changes in developing countries’ occupational structure. Given the pervasiveness of gender occupational segregation, there may be important gender differences in the employment impacts of new technologies. Understanding these differences is important to ensure progress towards equitable development and gender inclusion.

This paper studies to what extent jobs done by women are more at risk of automation than jobs done by men, using recently collected data for urban labor markets in 13 low- and middle-income countries. Women report higher routine task intensity than men within the same 1-digit occupational groups. Gender differences in occupational choice across 2-digit occupations, as well as differences in human capital and ethnicity, also account for just a small part of the gender gap in routine task intensity.

These findings contribute to an understanding of gender inequalities in developing country labor markets, in particular related to potential impacts of automation technologies. While there may be little incentive for employers to invest in the automation of routine tasks, given the low cost of labor, the impacts would be concentrated among women and low-wage workers.