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Thinking Twice Before Having Children in Poland

The first thirty minutes of Elzbieta’s day are the most precious.
 
Between five and five-thirty in the morning is the only time she gets to herself, which she uses to work out, or read a book. After that, the grind of everyday life in Poland’s countryside takes over. She cooks, washes, cleans, irons, and cooks for her seven children, aged two to fifteen. And it doesn’t stop until late at night.
 
Elzbieta’s family and other families with multiple children are rather unique in Poland, which has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. When asked why they didn’t have children in a recent country-wide survey, 71 percent of Poles said unstable employment and difficulties in balancing work and family life were big factors.
 
Their fears are not without reason -- with each child, the risk of poverty increases tremendously -- families with three or more children are more likely to be in the lowest income group, with 26.6 percent of households with four children living in poverty in Poland, according to the Main Statistical Office.
 
Even buying clothes for children is a daunting task, in such cases. “We have started participating in lotteries organized by local clothes stores, with no luck so far,” Elzbieta said. “We do it because taxes for children’s clothes and shoes were recently raised, and families like ours are most affected. Families with children are just not given a chance.”
 
Elzbieta talked to me as she picked flowers in a nearby field, while watching her five-year old daughter. The flowers she collected would later be dried on a bench outside her rural home and used for making herbal teas for the family. Even buying tea is a financial challenge for Elzbieta’s family, whose income, a total of PLN 3,280 (about $1,100) comes from social assistance for children, including a disabled child (PLN 2,000) and her husband’s income – after the payment of a home renovation loan – of PLN1, 280.
 

The Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia

 
But hospitality is not to be spared.

Women in the Workforce – a Growing Need in Emerging Europe and Central Asia

Sarosh Sattar's picture

Emerging Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is an interesting region because what you expect is not always what exists. Since this is written in honor of International Women's Day, discussing women’s labor market participation seems appropriate. The standard indicator used for this is the “female labor force participation” (LFP) rate, which is the proportion of all women between 15-64 years who either work or are looking for work. 

Since much of the region has a common socialist legacy, you would expect to see similar labor market behavior among women. However, the proportion of women who work ranges from a low of 42 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 74 percent of adult women in Kazakhstan. And it wasn’t 20 years of social and economic transition that led to this divergence. Even in 1990, the range was about the same. The exception was Moldova which saw a 26 percentage point decline.

How Does a Fragile State Lose Its Fragility? Lessons From Cote d’Ivoire

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: العربية

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ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire – At a jobs training center in this key capital city in West Africa, a young man showed me his newfound skills as an electrician. At a workshop, light bulbs flickered on and off. And then he told me something really important:

“It’s been 10 years since I graduated with my secondary school degree, and because of our conflict, I have never held a job. So this is a blessing to me,” said the young trainee. “But my brothers and sisters and so many people haven’t had this opportunity. I wonder how they can get jobs, too.”

Improving capacity building in post-conflict and fragile settings

Nina Vucenik's picture

Young children in school. Ghana. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World BankThree African ministers shared their experience with Bank officials on Thursday when they met to discuss ways to develop capacity in post-conflict countries.

 “We are here to listen—tell us how we can better assist you. And please, be frank,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Africa Region Vice President.

Ezekwesili asked the ministers from Liberia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to discuss capacity development efforts in their countries, and to identify what has and has not worked, and how donors can provide more effective support for human development, infrastructure, and public sector reforms.

Several common themes emerged from the ministers’ interventions, including:

  • Donors prioritizing support for primary and secondary education, and not higher education
  • Donors pressing a “one size fits all” approach on countries, trying to replicate programs that were successful elsewhere
  • The failure by expatriate advisors in civil service posts to transfer their knowledge and skills to local counterparts
  • Tension among returning members of the Diaspora and local populations that stayed behind, partly around incentive structures for civil service
  • An urgent need to deliver skills-training and create job opportunities for young ex-combatants
     

South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson / World BankAugustine Ngafaun, Minister of Finance for Liberia, outlined the enormity of the challenges facing his country, which has “75 percent of the educational facilities destroyed” combined with a “massive brain drain” as a result of professionals fleeing during Liberia’s recent conflict.

“We have very few doctors, teachers and hardly any engineers,” said Ngafaun, Liberia's Minister of Finance.

He also noted that, despite the importance of the mining sector for Liberia’s growth, there are not even five geologists in the entire country.

Rwanda’s Finance Minister James Musoni noted that even though the reconstruction challenges were daunting, his country has made significant progress since the 1994 genocide. He said it is crucial for the donor community to understand the context in which each country operates, as in some cases the political leadership may not be ready.

Ezekwesili stressed the need to build confidence in all sectors, pointing out that “development solutions work only to the extent that the capacities of the nation-state, the private sector, and civil society are strong.”

“The lack of capacity is magnified by the stress of the post conflict environment,” Ezekwesili said. 

Story: Improving Capacity Building in Post-conflict and Fragile Settings—African Ministers Share their Experience