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Gendered vulnerabilities in Australian microfinance

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This paper seeks to explore consumer vulnerability in the context of Australian microfinance to uncover the role of macro forces that exacerbate and/or eradicate gendered vulnerabilities.
Employing a social constructivist approach, the paper adopts in-depth interviews with consumers of microfinance loans. Specifically, the paper examines the policy (in)visibility for particular gendered vulnerabilities through the narrative of men and women participating in the credit marketplace.
Findings suggest that although the policy design of microfinance does not explicitly target women or men, nevertheless, the way in which the programme operates, the primary use of the loan, and the subjects of the programme can attend to consumer vulnerabilities at the intersections of economic status and systemic gendered needs. The paper reveals that policy design can proactively strategise towards safeguarding and empowering vulnerable consumers and unveil power differentials in society.
A multitude of factors shape consumption experiences in the marketplace impacting the power differential between the individual and the institutions. This paper only focuses on two overlapping vulnerabilities - economic status and gender. Further research needs to include other areas of intersecting vulnerabilities such as race, immigration status, age, health and the like.
By unravelling the overlapping vulnerabilities facing consumers of microfinance loans in Australia, the paper allows for remedying policy invisibility and sharpening the need to identify beneficiaries and more targeted interventions.
Consumer vulnerabilities are often invisible in institutional mechanisms such as social policy which overlook intersecting vulnerabilities. This paper contributes to the field by examining the role of macro forces in exacerbating and/or eradicating gendered vulnerabilities.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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