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Social Development

How - and on what money - could we live to the age of 150 years?

Johannes Koettl's picture
Retired man with his surfboard
Nature has given every species an intrinsic life span. Life span is a bit like an upper bound to life expectancy: if you got every member of a species healthier and healthier, life expectancy of that species would constantly increase, but eventually be bound by life span.

Every species has a different life span: for flies, it’s just a couple of days, for bowhead whales it’s 200 years. For humans, biologists have found that up until the 1960s, life span was around 89 years. This means that if we kept improving our health systems, the world population’s life expectancy would converge to our species’ life span of 89.

So how did we break the limits of life expectancy?

Uruguay’s award-winning innovations for social protection

Till Johannes Hartmann's picture
Photo credit: Jimmy Baikovicius

Uruguay stands out in Latin America and the Caribbean for the significant and early progress it achieved in terms of social protection.

Now gaining global attention, Uruguay is pioneering an award-winning information system to reduce poverty and vulnerability. The system addresses challenges faced by many governments in targeting and coordinating social assistance and, with reduced costs from license-free software, it could soon be replicated in other countries.

Uruguay spends more on social programs than any government in the region (about 25% of its GDP, and over 80% of total public spending). While these resources have enabled great advances, the wide array of institutions responsible for deploying them creates coordination challenges.

Closing the gap in Myanmar: Expanding access to social services

Hnin Hnin Pyne's picture



Myanmar’s people are its greatest resource. Its current young population and growing number of productive workers hold the promise of a demographic dividend and inclusive growth. With a steady pace of economic growth, Myanmar has the potential to get rich before it gets old.
 
For Myanmar to deliver on this potential it can prioritize investing in its people, by strengthening the country's health, education, and social protection systems. Education and health directly improve chances of employment. Individuals who complete more years of schooling earn a higher income.  Improving health, education and social protections – closing the gap – is not a mere by-product of economic development, but is essential to shared prosperity.
 
Myanmar in the early 1960s, poised to be the economic engine of the region, prided itself for having the highest literacy rate in Asia. After decades of underspending and neglect of social services and programs, human development outcomes deteriorated, ranking among the lowest in the region.  Rural and poorer households bore a greater burden of ill health, low educational attainment and vulnerability. 
 
In 2009, a major share of the total education and health spending came from households, 63% and 82% respectively.  This direct out-of-pocket spending, which was one of the highest in the world, prevented people from seeking care and attending school, because they could not afford it. In the case of health, families were made even poorer, as they had to sell their belongings to pay for the care they needed.  And there was no system to protect them. 
 
Even today, social assistance programs only reach 0.1% of the population, compared to 39% among East Asian and the Pacific countries.  This is in part due to extremely low level of social assistance spending, which is only 0.02% of GDP, compared to an average of 1.1% of GDP among low-income countries.
 

Equal opportunity to women benefits all

Annette Dixon's picture


Celebrating the women of South Asia

As we today mark UN Women’s Day, it is worth considering what the inequality between men and women costs South Asian countries and what can be done about it. 

One big cost of inequality is that South Asian economies do not reach their full potential. In Bangladesh, for example, women account for most unpaid work, and are overrepresented in the low productivity informal sector and among the poor. Raising the female employment rate could contribute significantly to Bangladesh achieving its goal in 2021 of becoming a middle-income country. Yet even middle-income countries in South Asia could prosper from more women in the workforce. Women represent only 34 percent of the employed population in Sri Lanka, a figure that has remained static for decades.

Economic opportunities for women matter not just because they can bring money home. They also matter because opportunities empower women more broadly in society and this can have a positive impact on others.  If women have a bigger say in how household money is spent this can ensure more of it is spent on children.

Improvements in the education and health of women have been linked to better outcomes for their children in countries as varied as Nepal and Pakistan. In India, giving power to women at the local government level led to increases in public services, such as water and sanitation.

Just as the costs of inequality are huge, so is the challenge in overcoming it. The gaps in opportunity between men and women are the product of pervasive and stubborn social norms that privilege men’s and boys’ access to opportunities and resources over women’s and girls’.

 

Taking On gender norms to empower women

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
All societies are guided by a certain number of rules - formal or not, written or unwritten, that define how members of the community are expected to behave, how they should interact with each other, what is acceptable or not. These so-called “social norms” permeate many aspects of our lives. They are often so deeply-entrenched that individuals may have a hard time distinguishing norms imposed upon them by society from their own individual preferences.
 
Gender relations are one aspect of our lives where the role and impact of social norms are particularly obvious. Even today, gender roles and stereotypes continue to exert significant influence over the way men and women behave, and how they interact with each other.
 
That is why it is critical for us to acknowledge, understand, and, if necessary, challenge existing social norms when designing and implementing projects that are meant to improve the lives of women. From reducing fertility rates in Bangladesh to combating gender-based violence in Haiti, Senior Social Development Specialist Maria Beatriz Orlando gives us examples of World Bank projects that effectively empowered women by addressing the reality of gender norms on the ground.

What I learned from the BEES about women’s empowerment and nutrition

Melissa Williams's picture

About four years ago, I started coordinating a knowledge and learning network, which we ultimately named Business, Enterprise and Employment Support (BEES) for women in South Asia. This network was a first for the Bank in South Asia because it comprised leading civil society organizations in eight South Asian countries* —not our typical clients—and it focused on sharing knowledge across borders about what works for women’s economic empowerment. I remember being told at the time to focus only on economic empowerment of women—don’t give in to “mission creep.” That was impossible. 

The growing role of women in disaster risk management

Malini Nambiar's picture
Women Community Leaders
Women community leaders. Photo Credit: World Bank


Women are seen in their traditional role of home-makers, but might their ability to take on managerial roles in disaster risk management be underestimated?
 
As part of the India Disaster Risk Management team, I travelled on the “Road2Resilience” bus journey along the entire coast of India. Along with the team’s mission to provide implementation support to the six coastal disaster management projects, I also focused on women’s participation in the mitigation activities of these projects.
 
Women’s participation in Disaster Risk Management in India has been sporadic. However, my interactions with the community - especially women - highlighted how women in coastal India are seriously taking disaster risk management into their own hands.

World Bank supporting both displaced and host communities to alleviate the burden of forced displacement

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Every year, conflict and natural disasters force millions to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, either within or beyond the borders of their country.
 
While forced displacement is nothing new, the number of displaced people has increased significantly over the last few years: according to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), conflict and war alone had forced a staggering 60 million people away from their home at the end of 2014-the highest level ever recorded.
 
Displacement is often a traumatic experience for the displaced, who may lose their homes, livelihoods, and experience precarious living conditions. In many cases, it also puts tremendous pressure on host communities that do not always have the capacity or infrastructure to absorb a sudden influx of people.
 
The World Bank has been working alongside displaced people and host communities alike in areas such as housing, municipal services, livelihoods, land, disaster risk management, and social cohesion. Priority is given to community-driven programs that put beneficiaries in the driver's seat and empower them to develop projects tailored to their own specific needs.
 
For more information on how the World Bank is addressing fragility, conflict, and violence, please make sure to visit our new Development for Peace blog.


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