Latin American Women Increase Purchasing Power

Latin American Women Increase Purchasing Power

Women in Latin America have been gradually joining the labor market over the past decade driven by various economic, personal and financial factors. In addition to pursuing economic independence and the desire for personal achievement, there is also an increasing need to share the household expenses—or to become the exclusive provider of all the resources. Social projects implemented by various associations to promote the parity of economic opportunities between men and women have also contributed to the integration of the female gender into the workforce.

Growing trend

While the trend of women working outside the home has been more evident in developed countries, it is also present in developing nations—as is the case with Latin American countries. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 53% of Latin American women are linked to the labor market—a proportion which reaches 70% of the women between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. Further, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that roughly 44 million women joined the labor markets of Latin America and the Caribbean in the last decade.

A Nielsen analysis in Latin America of more than 20,000 households across countries in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico further support the findings that there is a clear growing trend of women working outside the home. In Chile, for example, the percentage of working women grew from 31% in 2007 to 34% in 2008. In Mexico, the number of working women increased 10% over eight years reaching 35% in 2008. Of the four countries, Columbia has the greatest percentage of working women at 40% and Brazil follows closely at 36.6%.

Education creates opportunities

As women’s education levels increase, so do job opportunities. By the end of the 1990s, the United Nations reported that Latin American women between the ages of 30 and 45 with a formal education at the elementary level had a workforce contribution of 55%. That rate rose to 60% when women had an unfinished high school education, 65% with a high school education and more than 80% with a professional degree.

Nielsen data reinforced these findings—as the socioeconomic level increases, more women are educated and therefore have more opportunities for employment. The chart below shows occupation trends of housewives in Mexico from April 2008 to March 2009.


Lifestyle drives purchasing decisions

The rising purchase power of Latin American women is similar across most of the countries in the region. To better understand how this growing economic trend is impacting shopping behavior, Nielsen conducted an analysis in the Mexican market to compare the growth of shopping volume among households where women work vs. the total population.

The findings show that time-starved households—those balancing both work and home responsibilities—are looking for convenient products that save time and are easy to prepare. Categories that over index among households where women work include soups, ready-to-eat cereals, mayonnaise, flavored water, ready-to-drink beverages and packaged bread. And since women who work outside the home generally have more social interactions, hair treatments/conditioners and deodorants also have a high spending index.


Driven by the lack of time to go shopping at the supermarket, door-to-door sales is growing significantly in households where the woman works—spending is up 2.8% in 2009. Health care and beauty categories are the primary drivers of this growth—women who work have increased spending 15% in 2009 vs. 2008. Household products have also contributed to this growth, increasing 8.9% among working women vs. a spending decline of 20.9% among women who don’t work.

Reaching women

Women who are balancing both home and career are becoming increasingly important in the Latin American markets—those between the ages of 20–40 with higher education levels make up the highest percentage. Key purchase drivers for this segment include:

  • Ready-to-eat food categories
  • Convenient shopping outlets
  • Health care and beauty products