No. 16 State Policies and Women’s Autonomy in China, The Republic of Korea, 

and India 1950-2000: Lessons From Contrasting Experiences

By Monica Das Gupta, Sunhwa Lee, Patricia Uberoi, Danning Wang, Lihong Wang, Xiaodan Zhang

We compare changes in gender roles and women’s empowerment in China, the Republic of Korea, and India. Around 1950, when all these countries had new governments following revolution or the end of colonial rule, they were largely poor and agrarian, with many cultural commonalities which placed similar severe constraints on women’s autonomy. They adopted very different paths of development, which are known to have profoundly affected development outcomes in these countries. However, these choices have also had tremendous impact on gender outcomes, and today these countries show striking differences in the extent of gender equity achieved: China has achieved the most, and the Republic of Korea the least. We conclude that:

This paper is part of a series of papers on selected topics commissioned for the forthcoming Policy Research Report on Gender and Development.  The PRR is being carried out by Elizabeth King and Andrew Mason and co-sponsored by the World Bank’s Development Economics Research Group and the Gender and Development Group of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. Printed copies of this paper are available free from the World Bank, please send an email to Comments are welcome and should be sent directly to the author(s) at

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