Duty- and quota-free access for exports to global markets is something developing country trade negotiators have demanded for years. Few other “stroke-of-the-pen” measures could boost employment and reduce poverty in low income countries in such large numbers. For instance if the US removed tariffs on Bangladeshi garments – which average around 13%, but for some items are as high as 33% – then exports to the US could rise by $1.5 billion from the FY13 level of $5 billion, in turn generating employment for at least an additional half a million, primarily female, workers. Examples of other countries facing US tariffs include Cambodia (12.8% average tariff rate on its exports to the US), India (4.01%), Indonesia (5.73%), and Vietnam (7.41%). Progress in trade facilitation would likely have even greater pay-offs to growth and employment, but these require structural reforms and investments, while the decision to remove tariffs is a simpler, “stroke-of-the-pen” measure.
Those unfamiliar with the fast growing emerging economies of East Asia are likely to think that governments in these countries let market forces and capitalism roam free, red in tooth and claw. That was certainly my impression before coming to work in the region, and generally that held at the outset of our work by the group of us that wrote a new World Bank report “East Asia Pacific At Work: Employment, Enterprise and Wellbeing” .
The report shows just how wrong we were. We could be forgiven this impression—many of us had come from assignments in Latin America and the Caribbean or in Europe and Central Asia, where the distortions and rigidities from labor regulation and poorly designed social protection are rife, and where policy makers cast envious looks at the stellar and sustained employment outcomes in East Asia.
Well, it turns out that although they came relatively late to labor regulation and social protection, many governments in the region have entered this arena with gusto. We were surprised to find that, going just by what is written in their labor codes, the average level of employment protection in East Asia is actually higher than the OECD average.
- Social Development
- Law and Regulation
- Labor and Social Protection
- Financial Sector
- East Asia and Pacific
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Micronesia, Federated States of
- Marshall Islands
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Korea, Republic of
“Maybe in the Middle East … but in our part of the world, there is no gender inequity.” As an Egyptian, I wasn’t surprised to hear such assertions from colleagues when I arrived in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region to deliver a program aimed at creating opportunities for women in the private sector. With its socialist legacy, the region prided itself on gender equality. Women were historically well-represented in the state-run economic systems. I looked at legal frameworks and the Women, Business and the Law indicators and found little evidence of discrimination. Laws on the books were overwhelmingly gender-neutral. I was puzzled.
Then I studied data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys: Women’s rates of participation in the private sector told a different story. Women’s status seemed to be collapsing with the state systems and falling as markets started opening. For instance, now, only 36% of firms in the region are owned by women; that is a lower percentage than in East Asia (60%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (40%). Only 19% of companies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have female top managers, compared to 30% in East Asia and 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
So I faced the daunting task of delivering a gender program in a region where few believe that there are gender issues to address.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Macedonia, former Yugoslav Republic of
- East Asia and Pacific
- Europe and Central Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Private Sector Development
- gender eqaulity
- women business and the law
- banking on women
- Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Access to formal financial services has been expanding in recent years. But as people start to use these services for the first time, it has become clear that the challenge is not only providing access to financial services, but also ensuring that people have the behaviors and attitudes to use financial products responsibly and to their advantage. If not, increased access to finance could potentially lead to over-indebtedness and even financial crises.
Two recent nationwide surveys of 1,526 adults in Colombia and of 2,022 adults in Mexico measure financial capability to provide insights on how people manage their finances. The term “financial capability” refers to a broader concept than financial literacy or knowledge alone. It covers a number of different behaviors and attitudes related to participation in financial decisions, planning and monitoring the use of money, and balancing income and expenses to make ends meet.
The financial capability surveys find for example that, in Mexico, many make financial plans, but far fewer adhere to them. Seventy percent of those surveyed say they budget, but just one-third reported consistently adhering to a budget. Similarly, just 18 percent knew how much they spent last week. In Colombia, while 94 percent of adults reported budgeting how income would be spent, less than a quarter of those surveyed actively monitored spending or had precise knowledge of how much is available for daily expenses.
Shanta: Jishnu, your blog post and mine on cash transfers generated a lot of comments. Some people argued that giving poor people cash will not “work” because they will spend it on consumption rather than on their children’s education, which is something we care about. What do you have to say to that?
Jishnu: I don’t think the question “does giving cash to poor people work?” is well-defined. It can only be answered in the negative if we (the donors who give the cash) impose our preferences and judge what poor people spend on relative to those preferences. But if we give poor people cash so they will be better off, then—by definition—they are better off, regardless of how they choose to spend the extra money.
Alassane Sow, World Bank Country Manager for Cambodia, and Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative to Cambodia, wrote an op-ed for The Phnom Penh Post. Read the op-ed below, courtesy of The Phnom Penh Post.Did you know that in communities where a high proportion of people defecate outdoors, children are on average shorter than children living in communities where most people use toilets?
Inspired. That's how I felt after reading Profiles in Blogging, a new report published by the Center for International Media Assistance that examines how bloggers around the world practice their craft. Christopher Connell, an independent writer, editor, and photographer who was also former bureau chief for the Associated Press in Washington, provides a window into the experience of eight bloggers from Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Ghana, Yemen, Philippines, China, and Cuba. He provides an interesting narrative about each blogger, noting their important role in filling information gaps and their evolution into influential bloggers. He also examines how these bloggers find their audiences, the obstacles they face in practicing their craft, and, most inspiring (as least in my view), what motivates them.
Animation schools in Cambodia are using the power of international trade to reach the poor. In recent years, a number of institutions have emerged to train young Khmers how to draw the characters used in advertisements, cartoons and films. One of the institutes is run by a French school whose graduates have worked on blockbusters such as the Harry Potter, Shrek and Batman movies. These schools are tapping into a multi-billion-dollar global industry and demonstrating Cambodia’s potential to engage in high-tech services trade. They also confirm that small firms and even community-led projects in LDCs can participate in trade in services, while helping children rise out of poverty.
Sokha, a skinny orphan girl in Cambodia used to pick through garbage to survive. But thanks to series of events, she was able to enroll in school and excel. Her tale is one of the nine inspiring stories in Girl Rising, a documentary that aims to raise awareness about the plight of girls in the developing world.
On April 18, Girl Rising was screened at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. in an event to give a greater momentum to girls’ education and empowerment. President Jim Yong Kim, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Justine Greening, Secretary of State, International Development, UK, Holly Gordon, Executive Producer of Girl Rising, Frieda Pinto, an actress and Shabana Basij-Rasikh, Founder of SOLA, an organization hoping to expand education and leadership opportunities for Afghan women shared their thoughts on need of girls’ empowerment.
Watch the recap of the event:
I’m back from the 2013 Clean Cooking Forum in Phnom Penh, and impressed with the insights shared by practitioners and household fuel experts from around the world. It’s good to see clean cooking at the center of the global development agenda. But to live up to expectations, we’ll need to keep working hard.