This month, thousands of events are taking place around the world to celebrate women and their economic, political and social accomplishments. Also, this year is extra special since it marks the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day. In 1911, more than a million people took to the streets in several countries to campaign for women’s rights, including the right to vote. Today, the International Women’s Day, March 8, is an official holiday in many countries, and the celebration extends throughout the month in many places. Just a few years ago, for example, the U.S. declared the month of March Women’s History month.
We like to think of doctors and teachers as knights in shining armor, focused purely on our well-being, without regard for profit or other personal interests. The reality, we know, is more complicated. Doctors, teachers, and even World Bankers, are motivated by a range of internal and external factors, from altruism through to self-interest.
In an economic crisis, whose job do employers put on the chopping block first? Many gender equality advocates and policymakers are concerned that “women are at risk of being hired last and dismissed first” during crises. This concern is fuelled by evidence showing that employers often discriminate against women even during less volatile times, that women often bear the brunt of coping with economic shocks, and that, in many countries, gender norms prioritize men’s employment over women’s. Despite a lot of rhetoric, existing studies of the labor market consequences of macroeconomic crises have yielded ambiguous conclusions about the differential impact across genders. Might claims about women’s vulnerability be exaggerated?
Most studies that look at the distributional impact of crises rely on household and labor force data. However, these data cannot distinguish between two mechanisms that could account for gender differences in employment adjustment. First, differences in vulnerability could be the result of sorting by gender into firms and occupations that differ in their vulnerability to crises. In this case, the effect of gender is indirect; women may take jobs that are relatively more or less vulnerable. Second, there could be differential treatment of men and women workers within the same firm. Faced with the need to adjust, do employers treat women differently, either by firing them first or cutting their wages more? It is this second mechanism that underpins concerns about discrimination. To distinguish between these mechanisms, we need to compare the employment prospects and wage trajectories of men and women both across and within firms—which means we need firm-level data.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Why transparency in the extractive industries matters for women
"Each year around the world, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8, with thousands of events occurring not just on this day, but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.
As the world marks this special day ONE spoke to Winnie Ngabiirwe, Chairperson of Publish What You Pay Uganda and Executive Director of Global Rights Alert, on why transparency in the extractives industries will benefit women in Uganda and other countries.
Winnie leads the effort to make sure revenues received for Uganda’s recently discovered oil are not wasted, and are put towards social and economic development programmes."
As I return from a week-long mission to Lebanon and Jordan, where I took part in a workshop to teach government agencies about MIGA's mission and products and met potential clients to discuss prospective collaboration, I am struck at how much unchartered territory there is for us in this ever-changing and turbulent region.
During the 18 days of the Egyptian revolution that began on January 25, I was glued to the news media -- and to Facebook, which proved to be a vital source of information quicker than any news agency -- to try to get news of what was happening and ensure that my family and friends back in Egypt stayed safe.
Food price spikes happen when stocks are low and when unpredictable events occur. That was the main message of Professor Brian Wright at his Development Economics Lecture at the World Bank on March 11.
Wright, who is Professor & Chair Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, has long followed the markets for storable commodities. He is also an expert in invention incentives, intellectual property rights, the economics of agricultural research and development, and the economics of conservation and innovation of genetic resources.
Today’s food and fuel concerns do not constitute the ‘perfect storm’, Wright said. However, he warned that if several important crop-producing countries have a bad season in the coming year, and if the demand for biofuels rises faster than the rate of production of major grains, we could be in real trouble.
What’s the best fix for this situation? Wright argues it’s keeping food supplies cheap and investing in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), since it will be super-seeds, drought resilient crops, and innovations to boost yields that will turn things around. He also emphasized that, during a crisis, it’s essential to put minimum food needs above animal feed and fuel uses.
Watch the video interview with Wright below.
Last week, I headed to Ibi Bateke plateau in the interiors of Democratic Republic Republic of Congo (DRC) to see the country’s first project approved and registered under the Kyoto Protocol. We set off on a long winding road taking us quickly from Kinshasa to the Ibi plateau – 150 kms away from the daily hustle of the over 9 million inhabitants of Kinshasa. Ibi is characteristically thinly forested, partly a result of the poor porous soils. Despite the vast lands, the majority of the land is uninhabited with villages dotting the landscape.
The community is replanting its degraded forests with trees like acacia, pines and eucalyptus that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, allowing the project to generate carbon credits which are purchased by the World Bank’s BioCarbon fund. This project is a trail blazer as some of the revenue from the sale of carbon credits is providing basic health care and schools, offering an integrated vision of development.
As we entered the village, we met a group of children walking home. Among them was one older kid who chaperoned the smaller ones - the youngest must have been about five. They chattered enthusiastically about their new school. The school was negotiated as one of the benefits for the participatory management of the plantation. Gautier Tschikaya a resident who was accompanying us told us that one day they were driving around on the plantation and found a whole bunch of kids squatting in an abandoned building so that they would not have to walk the 10+ km every day to get to school. At that point, they built a dormitory for those kids and we visited it - situated just below the school now.
(Available in Chinese)
Food prices have received a lot of attention recently. Understandably, much of the attention is on recent developments and short term prospects. But in this blog post I try to look back at some longer term trends, in order to look further ahead.
Since the early 2000s, food related prices have trended up (Figure 1). The deflator of agricultural value added has risen 8% per year on average since 2000, after falling during the second half of the 1990s. Producer Price Index (PPI) food prices (factory gate) have risen much less because prices of other inputs into the food processing industry have gone up less and rapid productivity growth in food processing has dampened the transmission of higher raw food prices.
Professor Barry Eichengreen (left) and
While it may take historians years to understand the historic conditions and political factors which triggered the democratic revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East, one thing seems to be certain. The political actor which has gained the most prominence in these political uprisings has been ‘civil society’. This term encompasses the large sector within any given society which sits between governments and the for-profit or private sector. As such it includes youth movements, workers unions, NGOs, political parties, and faith-based organizations among others. It is a term still little understood, often derided by authoritarian governments, and rarely heard in the Middle East until now. The term in Arabic is “mojtama'a madani” and has the same broad meaning as in English. It is said that when Egyptian ex-President Mubarak first heard the term he mockingly quipped, “So what’s wrong with military society?”