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How to boost female employment in South Asia

Martin Rama's picture
What's driving female employment in South Asia to decrease


South Asia is booming. In 2018, GDP growth for the region as a whole is expected to accelerate to 6.9 percent, making it the fastest growing region in the world. However, fast GDP growth has not translated into fast employment growth. In fact, employment rates have declined across the region, with women accounting for most of this decline.

Between 2005 and 2015, female employment rates declined by 5 percent per year in India, 3 percent per year in Bhutan, and 1 percent per year in Sri Lanka. While it is not surprising for female employment rates to decline with economic growth and then increase, in what is commonly known as the U-shaped female labor force function (a term coined by Claudia Goldin in 1995), the trends observed in South Asia stand out. Not only has female employment declined much more than could have been anticipated, it is likely to decline further as countries such as India continue to grow and urbanize.

The unusual trend for female employment rates in South Asia is clear from Figure 1. While male employment rates in South Asia are in line with those of other countries at the same income level, female employment rates are well below.
From the South Asia Economic Focus
Source: South Asia Economic Focus (Spring 2018).

If women are choosing to exit the labor force as family incomes rise, should policymakers worry? There are at least three reasons why the drop in female employment rates may have important social costs. First, household choices may not necessarily match women’s preferences. Those preferences reflect the influence of ideas and norms about what is women’s work and men’s work as well as other gendered notions such as the idea that women should take care of the children and housework. Second, when women control a greater share of household incomes, children are healthier and do better in school. Third, when women work for pay, they have a greater voice in their households, in their communities, and in society. The economic gains from women participating equally in the labor market are sizable: A recent study estimated that the overall gain in GDP to South Asia from closing gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship would be close to 25 percent.

Face to face with William Maloney, Chief Economist, Equitable Finance and Institutions

Nandita Roy's picture

Returns on technological adoption are thought to be extremely high, yet developing countries appear to invest little, implying that this critical channel of productivity growth is underexploited. A recent World Bank study – The Innovation Paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the Unrealized Promise of Technological Catch-Up – sheds light on how to address this paradox. In this interview, William Maloney Chief Economist, Equitable Finance and Institutions Practice Group, World Bank Group, calls upon developing country public and private-sector leaders to pursue a more focused approach to innovation policy.



What is the new study Innovation Paradox all about?

The potential gains from bringing existing technologies to developing countries are vast, much higher for poor countries than for rich countries. Yet developing-country firms and governments invest relatively little to realize this potential. That’s the origin of what we are calling ‘The Innovation Paradox’.

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Why do firms in developing countries lag behind when it comes to innovation?

The Innovation Paradox, argues that developing country firms choose not to invest heavily in adopting technology, even if they are keen to do so, because they face a range of constraints that prevent them from benefitting from the transfer.

Developing country firms are often constrained by low managerial capability, find it difficult to import the necessary technology, to contract or hire trained workers and engineers, or draw on the new organizational techniques needed to maximize the potential of innovation. Moreover, they are often inhibited by a weak business climate. For example, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are constantly in a situation where they are putting out fires, they don’t have a five-year plan, they don’t have somebody keeping track of what new technology has come out of some place that they could bring to the firm.

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How can developing economies catch up with the developed world on innovation?

The rates of return to investments and innovation of various kinds appear to be extremely high, yet we see a much smaller effort in these areas.  In the developing countries, we need to think not only about barriers to accumulating knowledge capital, we have to think about all the barriers to accumulating all of the complementary factors—the physical capital. So, if I have a lousy education system, it doesn’t matter if I get a high-tech firm because there won’t be any workers to staff it.

Innovation requires competitive and undistorted economies, adequate levels of human capital, functioning capital markets, a dynamic and capable business sector, reliable regulation and property rights. Richer countries tend to have more of these conditions. This is at the root of Paradox. Even though follower countries have much to gain from adopting existing technologies from the advanced countries, in practice, missing and distorted markets, weak management capabilities and human capital prevent them from taking advantage of these opportunities.

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How data can benefit Nepal

Ravi Kumar's picture

Thirty years ago, almost everyone in Nepal —except for a few professionals and business people—would have been classified as poor by any reasonable international standard.

In 2010, by contrast, 15 percent of Nepalis were considered poor.

Without a doubt, Nepal has made progress.

Now the 761 newly formed—local, provincial, and federal—governments in Nepal aim to provide all Nepalis access to essential public services, eliminate poverty, reduce gender and ethnic inequalities, and ensure environmental sustainability

The hope is that Nepal will reach middle-income status by 2030.

But tracking and monitoring progress against the goals articulated in Nepal’s development vision as well as the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) impose significant demands on the country.

Unfortunately, the absence of disaggregated data by geography, sex, age, social groups and sub-national level, and more poses an enormous challenge for all levels of governments to properly plan and budget.

As such, Nepal needs to urgently invest in its data and statistics capacity.

Data is the currency for decision making and helps us understand what works and what doesn’t.

For instance, let’s consider a province in Nepal that is keen to improve learning for its public schools’ students.

Without data on students, their gender, age, academic performance, or the number of schools and teachers, the provincial government cannot elaborate an informed plan for its students.

But were policymakers able to access timely and sufficient data, they could decide whether more teachers or more schools are needed. Without data, decisions are just like shooting in the dark and hoping for the best.   

#IndiaWeWant Photo Contest: Shortlisted Entries

Roli Mahajan's picture

The World Bank in India ran the #IndiaWeWant photo competition through our Facebook and Twitter channels, where we invited participants to share photographs capturing the key development priority for India. The #IndiaWeWant photo competition was open for a month and we have received many compelling entries. 

Now it is time for us to choose our winners.

We asked a jury of three members comprising professional and development photographers -- Michael Foley, Anirban Dutta, Anupam Joshi-- to come together and do the honours.

Here are the #IndiaWeWant entries that have made it to the longlist. They will be deliberating over these soon and selecting the WINNER as well as the 9 others, as stated in the rules.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below and if one of your entries has been selected then please do send us an email ([email protected]) with the actual photograph and your details (Name, Phone Number).
 

Banking on women’s empowerment for a sustainable and stronger India 
The global efforts for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals could be accelerated by synergising women's empowerment with environmental conservation. 
Since past 32 years, Barli Development Institute for Rural Women (BDIRW) has been empowering rural and tribal women through organising free 6-monthly residential training program covering literacy, organic-farming, solar-cooking, health and tailoring&cutting. More than 8200 women have been empowered, who are changing the sustainable development horizons of their families and tribal communities (www.barli.org#IndiaWeWant 
In Picture: The women-trainees from Alirajpur (Dhauli, Rita, Angita, Karmi) planting trees in BDIRW campus (Indore, India) 
Photo credit: Yogesh Jadhav
 
For India, developing priority should be the education of girls in rural areas. They enrolled in school in beginning but they are not able to make it till the end, either they are forced to marry at the age of 10 or 13. In future, they are illiterate mothers who cannot read and write properly and also they become a victim of domestic violence as they are unaware about their rights. #IndiaWeWant
Photo Credit: Neha Rawat
To me, development is more than improvement in nation's GDP. It must be conceived as a multidimensional process, involving changes in the entire spectrum through which human capabilities are expanded, like education, healthcare, social participation or the freedom to make choices. The primary objective of development is to benefit people and improve the quality of life, which can only be achieved if all marginalised and excluded groups are equal stakeholders in the process alongwith active involvement in the planning, execution and monitoring of development programs.
The couple below selling lights which are battery operated but thankfully their smiles are not.#IndiaWeWant
Photo Credit: Maneka Naren Yadav‎

It’s time to end malnutrition in South Asia

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Chronic malnutrition remains prevalent across the region as many poor South Asians cannot afford nutritious foods or don’t have the relevant information or education to make smart dietary choices.
Chronic malnutrition remains prevalent across South Asia as many poor South Asians cannot afford nutritious foods or don’t have the relevant information or education to make smart dietary choices.

In Sri Lanka, as in the rest of South Asia, improving agricultural production has long been a priority to achieve food security. 

But growing more crops has hardly lessened the plight of malnutrition. 

Chronic malnutrition remains prevalent across the region as many poor South Asians cannot afford nutritious foods or don’t have the relevant information or education to make smart dietary choices. 
And children and the poorest are particularly at risk.

South Asia is home to about 62 million of the world’s 155 million children considered as stunted-- or too short for their age. 

And more than half of the world’s 52 million children identified as wasted—or too thin for their height—live in South Asia. 

Moderate-to-severe stunting rates ranged from 17 percent in Sri Lanka in 2016 to a high 45 percent in Pakistan in 2012–13, with rates above 30 percent for most countries in the region.

Moderate-to-severe wasting rates ranged from 2 percent in Bhutan in 2015 to 21 percent in India in 2015–16, with rates above 10 percent for most countries in the region. 

The social and economic cost of malnutrition is substantial, linked to impaired cognitive development, chronic disease, and lower future earnings.

And sadly, much remains to be done to ensure children across South Asia can access the nutritious foods they need to live healthy lives. 

Boosting entrepreneurship in rural Afghanistan

Miki Terasawa's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
The Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project has linked rural producers, inlcuding saffron farmers with markets to create businesses and provide employment opportunities to many Afghan women and men.
The Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project has linked rural producers, including saffron farmers with markets to create businesses and provide employment opportunities to many Afghan women and men. Photo Credit: AREDP/ World Bank.

Meet Mohammad Naim, a saffron farmer in Afghanistan’s Herat province.  In 2013, Naim launched a new business, the Taban Enterprise Group after he and his partners received training and attended agriculture fairs nationwide.

Taban cultivates, processes, and markets saffron, and since its founding, it has steadily improved the quality of its saffron and expanded operations. Today, the company employs 120 women annually for seasonal work to harvest and process the valuable crop.
 
This business success story started with small savings pooled together by rural men and women like Naim.
 
Since 2010, the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project (AREDP) has linked rural producers with markets and helped villagers form savings and credit groups to create businesses or expand their small enterprises.

تقویت تشبثات خصوصی و ایجاد فرصت های کار در روستاهای افغانستان

Miki Terasawa's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
The Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project has linked rural producers, inlcuding saffron farmers with markets to create businesses and provide employment opportunities to many Afghan women and men.
پروژه انکشاف صنایع روستایی افغانستان  ازتولید کنندگان روستایی، به خصوص کسانیکه در عرصه تولید زعفران مشغول کاراند حمایت مینماید، تا نه تنها محصولات شانرا به بازار ها عرضه نمایند، بلکه خود قادر به ایجاد تشبثات و تجارت های کوچک گردند وزمینه های اشتغال زایی بیشتر را برای زنان و مردان فراهم نمایند. عکس: پروژه انکشاف صنایع روستایی افغانستان/ بانک جهانی

با نعیم یکتن از متشبثین محلی در ولایت هرات، که  در عرصه تولید زعفران مصروف کار است، آشنا شوید. در سال ۲۰۱۳ میلادی، نعیم و چند تن از شرکای او پس از اشتراک در یک سلسله برنامه های آموزشی در بخش زراعت و همچنان اشتراک در چندین نمایشگاه داخلی، تصمیم گرفتند یک شرکت تجارتی را بنام تابان تاسیس نمایند. شرکت متذکره که در بخش های کشت، پروسس و فروش محصول زعفران فعالیت را آغاز نمود، در مدت کم توانست با بهبود کیفیت تولید زعفران و گسترش فعالیت های تجارتی فراتر از مرز های افغانستان شهرت کسب نماید. بطور اوسط سالانه ۱۲۰ زن در این شرکت به منظور انجام کار های فصلی زعفران استخدام گردیده، تا در عرصه جمع آوری حاصلات و پروسس این نبات ارزشمند کار نمایند.
 
موفقیت این سرمایه گذاری با سهمگیری و اختصاص هزینه های کوچک پس انداز و قرضه از سوی چند زن و مرد روستایی مانند نعیم آغاز گردیده است.
 
از سال ۲۰۱۰ بدینسو پروژه انکشاف صنابع روستایی افغانستان تولید کنندگان روستایی را با بازار ها وصل ساخته و همزمان با آن از طریق گروپ های پس انداز و گروپ های قرضه قریه، روستاییان را کمک نموده، تا برایشان تجارت های کوچک ایجاد نموده و یا تشبثات کوچک شان را توسعه دهند.

د افغانستان په کلیوالو سیمو کې د خصوصی تشبثاتو او د کارموندنی د فرصتونو پیاوړتیا

Miki Terasawa's picture
Also available in: English | دری
The Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project has linked rural producers, inlcuding saffron farmers with markets to create businesses and provide employment opportunities to many Afghan women and men.
د افغانستان د کلیوالي صنایعو د پراختیا پروژه له ټولو کلیوالو تولید کوونکو، بالخصوص له هغو بزګرانو څخه چې د زعفرانو د کښټ او پروسس په برخه کې کار کوي، مالي  او تخنیکي ملاتړ برابروي. په دې توګه نه یوازې، چې بزګران به وتوانیږي څو خپل محصولات بازارونو ته عرضه کړي، بلکه خپله به کوچني تجارتونه او تشبثات پرانیزي او د ښځو او نارینه وو لپاره به د کارموندنې فرصتونه برابر شي. انځور: د افغانستان د کلیوالي صنایعو د پراختیا پروژه/ نړیوال بانک

د زعفرانو د کښت چارو کې د هرات ولایت د یوه بریالي متشبث نعیم سره وپیژنئ. په ۲۰۱۳ کال کې نعیم او څو نورو شریکانو یې وروسته له دې چې د کرني په څو ښونیزو برنامو، او کورنیو نندارتونونو کې ګډون وکړ نو د تابان په نامه د یوه سوداګریز شرکت په جوړولو یې پیل وکړ. نوموړی شرکت چې د زعفرانو د کښت، پروسس او خرڅلاو په برخه کې فعالیت کوي، په ډیر کم وخت کې وتوانید د زعفرانو د کیفیت په لوړولو سره  د خپل سوداګریز فعالیتونو شهرت د افغانستان تر پولو واړوي. اوس مهال په منځنۍ توګه دغه شرکت په کال کې ۱۲۰ ښخې د زعفرانو د فصلی چارو لپاره ګوماري، تر څو د دغه ارزښتناک بوټي  د حاصلاتو د راټولولو او پروسس چارې پر مخ بوزي.
 
د دغه پانګه اچونې د بریالیتوب کیسه د سپما او پورونو لپاره د کوچنیو نغدي ونډه اخیستنو  په وسیله د نعیم په شان دڅو نارینه وو او ښخو له خوا پیل شوه.
 
د ۲۰۱۰ کال نه را پدیخوا د افغانستان د کلیوالي صنایعو د پراختیا پروژې، کلیوال تولید کوونکي له بازار سره وصل کړل او همدارنګه د کلي سپما او پورونو د ګروپونو په واسطه یې  له کليوالي خلکو سره مرسته وکړه تر څو ورته کوچني تجارتونه جوړ او کوچني تشبثاتو ته وده ورکړي.

Why should we care about changing attitudes on gender roles in Pakistan?

Saman Amir's picture



Our recent research suggests that attitudes related to women’s roles at home and in the public space are in flux and moving towards greater gender equality, at least in aspirations.

In recent focus group discussions with women conducted by the Pakistan Gender Platform in Pakistan’s four provincial capitals, most women voiced a preference to work outside the home in mixed gender settings, regardless of age, occupation or income levels, and despite the many barriers involved: from lack of safe public transport to sexual harassment at work. Yet, their choices are still limited by patriarchal norms: as one young FGD participant who expressed her desire to work noted, “We may become economically independent but will always be socially dependent.”

This tension between the changing aspirations of young Pakistanis and the barriers they face in realizing them came alive in a recent online poll that we launched as part of the Country Office’s flagship [email protected] initiative. Despite some limitations stemming from its sample and mode of delivery, the poll provides an eye-opening glimpse into the urban youth’s shifting aspirations and attitudes on gender norms.

From Japan to Bhutan: Improving the resilience of cultural heritage sites

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
This page in: 日本語
 Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018
When it comes to their heritage buildings, both Bhutan and Japan have one common enemy: Fire. A view of Wangduephodrang Dzong in Bhutan which was destroyed by fire in 2012. Credit: Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018

About 2,749 miles, three countries, and a sea separate Kyoto, Japan, and Thimphu, Bhutan. The countries’ languages are different, and so are their histories.

But when it comes to their heritage buildings, both nations have one common enemy: Fire.

And to help prevent fire hazards, there’s a lot Bhutan can learn from Japan’s experience.

To that end, a Bhutanese delegation visited Tokyo and Kyoto last year to attend the Resilient Cultural Heritage and Tourism Technical Deep Dive to learn best practices on risk preparedness and mitigation, and apply them to Bhutan’s context.

Such knowledge is critical as Bhutan’s communities live in and around great heritage sites.

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