Oilmin Holdings, a logistics management company providing services to the oil, gas, and mining industry in Papua New Guinea, did not employ all that many women, but they had a star performer in Rose.
Rose had risen from administrative assistant to office manager in the company’s headquarters in Port Moresby. Her boss at Oilmin wanted her to go further up the chain, but in their industry, the next logical step – and one required for senior management roles - was managing a field site. It required long hours and smarts. Rose was willing and able, but it also meant a very remote location. It was too risky, her managers decided; they didn’t know how to keep her safe. Sending extra security guards – all male – would only increase the risk to her, not protect her, they concluded.
While Hillary Clinton is cracking the glass ceiling, if not yet shattering it entirely, in the United States by becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, recent analysis on U.S. women in the workforce presents a more sobering finding.
The China sourcing conundrum
In conversations with U.S. and European retailers and brands, ELEVATE – a company formed in 2013 to support corporate social responsibility – finds that apparel buyers rate diversifying away from China as one of their top three sourcing goals.
This is not to suggest that there is a desire to exit China – which currently holds by far the largest share of global apparel trade, at 41 percent – but rather a need to significantly reduce dependence on product from China, owing to rising costs, factory closures, unenthusiastic second generation family ownership, new attitudes about working in factories, and a perception that China wants to move to higher-value manufacturing. Sourcing and procurement organizations feel uncertain, and uncertainty is not a friend of supply chains.
The problem is that for all its uncertainty, China still has a huge base of factories, a well-developed transport infrastructure, and a comprehensive eco-system that supplies cut-and-sew operations, and management that has matured with years of experience. Even if a buyer would like to give another country an opportunity, many corporate risk managers view certain countries or regions as quite challenging for doing business.
South Asia could seize this opportunity by better meeting requirements – besides competitive costs – that are vital to global buyers. These include: (i) quality, which is influenced by the raw materials used, skill level of the sewing machine operator, and thoroughness of the quality control team; (ii) lead time and reliability, which are greatly affected by the efficiency and availability of transportation networks and customs procedures; and (iii) social compliance and sustainability, which has become central to buyers’ sourcing decisions in response to pressure from corporate social responsibility campaigns by non-governmental organizations, compliance-conscious consumers, and, more recently, the increased number of safety incidents in apparel factories.
Surveys of global buyers show that East Asian apparel manufacturers rank well above South Asian firms along these key dimensions, as noted in a new World Bank report on apparel, jobs, trade, and economic development in South Asia, Stitches to Riches (see table). So, what can South Asia, which now accounts for only 12 percent of global apparel trade, do to become a bigger player? An encouraging recent development is that buyers have started collaborating to facilitate new sourcing possibilities – as the case of Bangladesh illustrates.
Sunny skies and beautiful beaches come to mind when you think about the Caribbean. But beyond the turquoise water lies a history of underage marriage, a practice that still lingers throughout the region.
My Nani (the Hindi word for maternal grandmother), came from a low-income family from the island of Trinidad. Growing up, she worked on a sugar plantation with her siblings. But poverty and manual labor didn’t compare with what she experienced after her mother died.
Blog 12: Key lessons on road to sharing prosperity
India is home to the largest number of poor people in the world, as well as the largest number of people who have recently escaped poverty. Over the last few weeks, this blog series has highlighted research from the World Bank and its partners on what has driven poverty reduction, what still stands in the way of progress, and the road to a more prosperous India.
This is the last blog in the #Pathways2Prosperity series. You can read all the blogs in this series and keep contributing to the discussion around #WhatWillItTake to #EndPoverty in India.
A thorough review of India’s experience in reducing poverty over the last two decades confirmed some of our previous understanding, but it also revealed new, unexpected insights. On the confirmation side, we found that poverty in India, as in other parts of the world, is associated with a lack of assets at the household level, and especially with limited human capital.
At the national level, 45 percent of India’s poor are illiterate, whereas another 25 percent have a primary education at most. Further down several Indian states, including a few high-income ones, show stunting and underweight rates that are worse than the averages for sub-Saharan Africa. While multiple factors lie at the root of the nutrition challenge, the prevalence of diarrheal disease is thought to be one of the main culprits, and diarrhea is triggered by poor hygiene. Only 6 percent of India’s poor have tap water at home, and a little more than a fifth have a latrine or some form of improved sanitation.
From this perspective, investing in education, health and the delivery of basic services for India’s most disadvantaged people remains a key priority. Investments of this sort would enhance the human capital of the poor, hence increase their chances to prosper.
“Come get your daughter. She’s playing soccer with the boys,” said the neighbor to my mother one hot summer day in the early ’90s. I will always remember the look on our neighbor’s face. She opened her bedroom window on the second floor and looked below at the children playing soccer in the dirt field across from the apartment building where she lived in Amman, Jordan. She was a middle-aged woman, with short brown hair and a pointy nose. She lived in the same neighborhood where I played soccer with my cousins. I don’t remember her name but I’m going to call her “The Neighbor”. The Neighbor saw me from her window. We exchanged looks. Hers was of disapproval, mine was of fear. Fear of being caught.
While many of the struggles that LGBTI people face are all too familiar – violence, stigma, discrimination – we’ve just returned from the fourth Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference in Uruguay full of stories of positive change. We’re invigorated about the increasing potential for the Bank to be a valuable partner to our clients and LGBTI citizens around the world.
In India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, I met young ex-farmers who had moved out of farm jobs and were now working in factories and government offices. Their day to day circumstances weren’t all that different from millions of others around the world.
But yet, the people I met were remarkable. There was the disabled young man who, with skills training, found an IT job and a life outside his home, and is now supporting his mother. There were also women Self Help Group (SHG) members who, with support from their female Panchayat Leader, Pushpa, were helping to better the lives of their communities. They worked to improve water supply, build toilets and boost sanitation, and also found jobs in agro-processing.
My time in India made it clear to me that opportunity can change lives - especially in rural areas, where 78% of the country’s poor people live.
Opportunity can come in various forms. It can come in the form of social empowerment - by giving voice to groups that are often marginalized, such as women, youth and disabled people.
It can also come in the form of jobs - through skills training, job placement programs and other services that help people secure formal employment.
Jobs and social empowerment are two different opportunities. But they can be related: They both share transformative effects that are positive, and can multiply in unexpected directions.
For example, as women gain more confidence, their voices are listened to on a variety of matters within the home - such as on family planning and how to spend family incomes - improving the lives of their children and their families. Collectively, the power of their voices expressed through SHGs and other groups can bring about change on a larger scale, impacting the wider community as a whole.
Jobs, too, are known to have transformative effects. They give people the economic resources to improve their quality of life, open up new opportunities and enable them to engage with the outside world.
The last three decades have seen a transition from central planning to market systems across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). But over the same period there has been a consistent decrease in women’s employment. Prior to the transition, CEE countries were characterized by a relatively high employment ratio among women. Gender employment gaps were generally lower in CEE under central planning and then increased over the course of transition.