Gender justice

Gender Justice and the Wellbeing Economy

Situating Gender Justice and the Wellbeing Economy within movements for a paradigm shift from a growth-driven economic system to an economy of wellbeing prioritizing care of the people and care of the planet.

The Gender Justice and the Wellbeing Economy programme seeks to place gender injustice as a central dimension of rising inequalities and the looming climate catastrophe facing the world today.

Naila Kabeer

The Programme is led by Professor Naila Kabeer.

The Gender Justice and the Wellbeing Economy programme positions itself among the growing voices and movements across the world calling for a paradigm shift from the current growth-driven economic system to an economy of wellbeing, one that prioritizes care of the people and care of the planet. What distinguishes our work is the emphasis on gender justice as central to the processes by which this must be achieved.  We share the concerns with the ever-rising levels of inequality and the looming climate catastrophe that underpin these movements, but we draw and expand on research that demonstrates how the underlying causes of ‘ill-being’ are bound up with processes that have bolstered and exacerbated long-standing gender injustices. Our main contribution to the wider voices and movements consists of evidence-based analysis advocacy and activism that makes the case for gender justice as foundational to creating a new wellbeing economy. 

Research focus and aims

The inter-related nature of the injustices associated with rising economic inequality and looming climate catastrophe has come to the forefront of public consciousness: those at the bottom of the distribution of income and wealth have contributed least to climate change but are likely to suffer most.  The relationship between the causes and consequences of these phenomena underpins arguments for a transition from a growth-driven economic paradigm to one that prioritizes wellbeing. Far less attention, however,  is paid to gender injustice, to the persistent devaluation of activities associated with the care economy, and the implications of this and other gendered harms for the transition to a wellbeing economy.  Our research programme aims to correct this blind spot by generating evidence-based arguments and advocacy within policy and activist pathways so as to ensure that gender justice is given prominence in the deliberations about the transition to a wellbeing economy.  

The programme brings together an interdisciplinary core team and a wider network of scholars and activists in order to articulate the role of gender justice in the wellbeing economy through a focus on three thematic areas: an analysis of the problem, the conceptualization of alternatives, and the construction of an agenda for change. 

The drivers of ill-being in the world today. This theme takes the work of Karl Polanyi on the destructive impact of deregulated markets and fictitious commodities as its  starting point. It examines how this work has been built on and reformulated to make it fit-for-purpose in analysing the ill-effects of the current neo-liberal agenda of privatization, liberalization and financialization. It deals with the negative effects of this agenda on distributional issues, on natural resources and ecological services and on the key dimensions that are at the heart of human wellbeing across the world: food, water, shelter, health, education and the care provided and received within the home and outside it. The theme explores, in particular, the nature of the inter-relationships between gender injustice and these various impacts: how gender injustices can magnify these impacts but can also be exacerbated by them -  bearing in mind all the time that gender itself is differentiated by class, location and social identity. 

Conceptualizing the wellbeing economy.  Along with concerns about growing manifestations of ill-being, there is now widespread recognition by both the policy establishment as well researchers and activists that GDP is not only an inadequate measure of national progress but its limitations have contributed to the problems we seek to address. Differing ways of conceptualizing alternatives have been suggested in its place, many discussed under the rubric of the wellbeing economy. This second theme assesses them for the notions of wellbeing they incorporate and the attention they pay to notions of gender justice. It also explores the extent to which they capture findings on wellbeing reported by smaller scale, empirical studies in different parts of the world.  While the physical dimensions of basic necessities that are crucial for wellbeing may be reasonably similar across the world, what do these studies tell us about values and meanings attached in different societies to intangible dimensions such as justice, fairness and an ethic of care in different societies? Are these values and meanings similar within these societies or are there differences by class, gender and other axes of inequality? We need to understand potential differences more clearly if movements for change are to cross cultural boundaries and build alliances across the world. 

Pathways to the wellbeing economy. The third theme focuses on the work of scholars, policy makers and activists who have been arguing for the transition from a growth-driven economic system to an economy that prioritizes human and environmental wellbeing. Certain policy debates recur in this literature, but they do not necessarily engage with the goal of gender justice.  Drawing on the work of Karl Polanyi and Nancy Fraser, we see the regulation of market forces to serve the needs of the planet and people, the de-commodification of goods and services that are necessary for human wellbeing and the eradication of gender and other forms of social injustice as constituting the core of a just transition. The policy literature includes promising approaches for such an agenda: 

-       The case for the public provision of public goods, particularly those essential to human wellbeing 

-       Securing dignified livelihoods: rights, resources and social protection 

-       Financing the wellbeing economy: contributions and claims

-       Democratizing the transition: accountable states and active citizens

The biggest challenge to achieving the kind of transition that can encompass wellbeing, justice and sustainability can be summarized  in what has become a widely cited aphorism ‘It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism’. The crucial insight it offers is that the challenge we face can be traced to a failure of imagination on the part of the people who matter – not only those in power who have started to question the market-driven growth paradigm, but the wider society whose willingness and capacity can power the transition to a cleaner and fairer economy. Under this theme, we will draw on a broad range of efforts to bring about a transformation in the capacity to imagine that a different future is possible, to go beyond academic and policy discourse to the visions and imperatives outlined by those with the greatest stake in an alternative future and to the various ways in which they urge us to imagine this future. As Arundhati Roy wrote in relation to the last pandemic, crises have often represented moments in history when human beings are faced with the possibility of breaking with the past and imagining their world anew. We are now in an era of multiple and overlapping crises that threaten human existence as we have known it. We can choose a future that reproduces the injustices of the past but with far more destructive consequences or we can discard that historical baggage and, as she puts it, walk through lightly, ‘ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it’. 


LSE Team

Professor Naila Kabeer, Gender and International Development, Department of International Development and Faculty of III, LSE. Director, Research Programme on Gender Justice and the Wellbeing Economy

Dr. Ania Plomien, Associate Professor, Gender and Social Science,  Deputy Head (Research), Department of Gender Studies and Faculty of III, LSE. Deputy Director, Research Programme on Gender Justice and the Wellbeing Economy

Dr. Kasia Paprocki, Associate Professor in Environment, Department of Geography and Environment, LSE

Dr. Guilia Ferrari, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, Centre for Women, Peace and Security, LSE

Professor Tim Forsyth, Environment and Development, Head, Department of International Development, LSE

Dr. Kate Steward, Project Manager (from May 2024). 

Core team  

Professor Radhika Balakrishnan, Women’s and Gender and Sexuality Studies, Rutgers University, USA

Dr. Sarah Cook, Head of Department of Economics, University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China

Mr. Haris Gazdar, Director, Social Science Research Collective, Pakistan

Professor James Heintz, Andrew Glyn Professor of Economics and Director, Economics and Human Rights Programme, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Mass, Amherst, USA. 

Dr. Luiza Nassif Pires, Assistant Professor, Economics, State University of Campinas  and Director, Research Centre on Macroeconomics of Inequalities, Sao Paolo. 

Professor Sharmila Rudrappa, Associate Professor in Sociology and the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Texas, Austin. 

Dr. Munshi Sulaiman, Director of Research, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, Bangladesh 

Professor Dzodzi Tsikata, Professor of Development Studies, SOAS, UK

Professor Imraan Valodia, Professor of Economics (Climate, Sustainability and Inequality) and Director of Southern Centre for Global Inequalities, University of  Witwatersrand, South Africa. 

Professor Deepta Chopra, Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex 

Dr. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, Director, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Geneva

Network members

Professor Diane Elson (Professor Emerita, University of Essex)

Dr. Sara Farris, Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths University, UK

Professor Linda Haintrais, International Inequalities Institute, LSE

Professor Jayati Ghosh, University of Mass, Amherst

Dr. Shahra Razavi, Director, Social Protection Department, ILO 

Dr. Isabel Ortiz, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, University of Columbia, USA

Anam Pervez, Head of Research, OXFAM, GB

Rachel Noble, Senior Policy Advisor on Women’s Economic Justice, OXFAM, GB

Dr. Jessica Woodroffe, Gender and Development Network UK


Forthcoming public events

  • March 5th 2024: Professor Radhika Balakrishnan ‘Gender, Policy and Human Rights: Rethinking ‘Progress’. Chaired by Professor Naila Kabeer. 4.30pm to 6pm. Graham Wallace Room (OLD) co-hosted by Department of International Development and Department of Gender Studies.
  • March 6th 2024: International Women’s Day Webinar organized by the UNU-International Institute for Global Health “Investing in women to advance gender equality in an era of polycrises”: Panel discussion with Stella Bosire, Rajat Khosla, Adeeba Kamarulzaman and Naila Kabeer, moderated by JohannaRiha. Register: