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What will it take to realize Pakistan’s potential?

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Sri Mulyani Indrawati meeting beneficiaries
Meeting with beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme in Lahore, Pakistan.

As Pakistan readies to celebrate its independence day, we can all feel satisfied about progress in restoring macroeconomic stability, but should also realise that the country can and should do much better. Pakistan has many assets, of which it can make better use — from its vast water and river endowment, to its coastline and cities, to its natural resources. And there are upsides: a growing middle class, a lively informal economy and a strong influx of remittances. Pakistan can also be proud of the first peaceful transfer of power between two civilian governments. But to reach its full potential, Pakistan needs to focus on two critical areas, both obvious and urgent. It needs to ensure that its people have the means to fully participate in and contribute to the economy. And it needs to integrate itself more, globally and regionally.

The first challenge is demographic. As a result of rapid population growth, 1.5 million youngsters reach the working age each year. The question is, will the private sector be able to provide the jobs they need and want? And will the youth have the skills to get good jobs? Pakistan must do far better in education. Primary school net enrollment is about 57 per cent, well below other South Asian countries. Enrollment drops by half in middle school, with much lower levels for girls and children from poor families. This is not a good foundation to build on.

It is not surprising then that Pakistan also struggles to give all its citizens the opportunity to participate in building better lives for themselves. Only 25 per cent of women participate in the labour force, compared to 50 and 80 per cent in most developing countries. Women and girls deserve better. Research shows that girls with little or no education are far more likely to be married as children, suffer domestic violence, and live in poverty. This harms not only them, but also their children, their communities and the economy. Greater gender equality can enhance productivity and improve development outcomes for the next generation. It is smart economics.

Pakistan has taken steps to empower women. The Benazir Income Support Program, supported by the World Bank, has provided millions of women with national ID cards and makes direct payments to them, strengthening their ability to take decisions and move out of poverty.

​LGBTI people are (likely) over represented in the bottom 40%

SOGI Task Force's picture

World Bank President Jim Kim recently said “we will not reach our twin goals […] unless we address all forms of discrimination, including bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Sexual and gender minorities are particularly important for the Bank because they are (likely) overrepresented in the bottom 40% -- the target of the Bank’s goal to promote shared prosperity.

Why only “likely”? Because robust data on LGBTI development outcomes is rare, even in high income countries.  With support from the World Bank’s Nordic Trust Fund, we are seeking to fill some of these data gaps, starting with research in the Western Balkans.

What we do know is that, across the board, barriers to education and employment contribute to greater chances of being poor – and this may be worse for LGBTI individuals. 

Available data on Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people shows that youth are more likely to face barriers in getting a good education.  It’s also harder to find – and keep – a job, pushing LGBTI people further into poverty.

Unleashing the power of women entrepreneurs around the world: The smartest investment to unlock global growth

Jin-Yong Cai's picture
Jacqueline Mavinga, entrepreneur, Democratic Republic of Congo.  © John McNally/World Bank Group

​Since childhood, Gircilene Gilca de Castro dreamed of owning her own business, but struggled to get it off the ground. Her fledgling food service company in Brazil had only two employees and one client when she realized she needed deeper knowledge about what it takes to grow a business. To take her business to that next level, she found the right education and mentoring opportunities and accessed new business and management tools.

Equality of opportunity as an engine of prosperity

Augusto Lopez-Claros's picture

We have learned much over the past several decades about the connection between gender inequality and economic growth, particularly when we talk about inequalities in education and employment. Inequalities in education, for instance, artificially reduce the pool of talent which societies can draw from; by excluding qualified girls from the educational stream and promoting less qualified boys, the average amount of human capital in a country will be reduced and this will have an adverse impact on economic performance. We also know that the promotion of female education leads to lower births per women, not only because educated women will have greater knowledge about family planning but also because education creates greater opportunities for women that may be more attractive than childbearing.

Pathway to profitable women-owned enterprises

Francesco Strobbe's picture

Pathway to profitable women-owned enterprises @ Evgeni Zotov / FlickR

Women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia are disadvantaged from the start. They have less access to the finance, networks, and education which help their male counterparts advance. They face regular discrimination and harassment from society--sometimes even from their own families and communities. The challenges a woman entrepreneur in Ethiopia faces in growing her business are overwhelming.

What happens when the playground is also the potty?

Emily C. Rand's picture

Imagine you are a busy mother scrubbing your laundry next to the public water stand near your yard. You realize your two year old — who is playing in the dirt — has to go to the toilet. What do you do? Chances are good you might just let them go on the ground somewhere nearby.

According to a recent analysis by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank Global Water Practice's Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) in key countries, over 50 percent of households with children under age three reported that the feces of their children were unsafely disposed of the last time they defecated. What this really means is that children are literally pooping where they are and their feces are left there, in the open. Meanwhile, the feces of other children in the neighborhood are put or rinsed in a ditch or drain, or buried or thrown into solid waste streams that keep the feces near the household environment.


World Cup and making history for women

Maya Brahmam's picture

Women's World Cup Championship 2015Today is the anniversary of the first World Cup, which was held in 1930 in Uruguay. Last Friday, almost 85 years later, the US Women’s Soccer Team was feted for their victory in a New York City ticker tape parade. A moment quite sweet to contemplate – I was surprised at how many people I saw tuning in and watching the final game.

The economic reality of women’s professional sports is not so sweet. According to PBS, the US Women’s soccer team got $2 million for World Cup win; German men got $35 million in 2014. That New York City ticker tape parade cost almost as much as the US Women’s winnings.

In an interview with the Guardian, Jerome Valcke, Fifa’s secretary general, has argued the men’s World Cup prize money pool is so much larger because the men’s tournament generates more revenue. The men’s World Cup “brings in $4.5bn direct to Fifa,” he said...But women’s soccer is newer, which means the women could be waiting a long time to earn a payout like the German men did last year.

Results-based financing for higher education reforms in Madhya Pradesh, India

Kavita Watsa's picture
Students in Madyha Pradesh, India.
Students in Madyha Pradesh, India.

A couple of months ago, I visited Chandra Shekhar Azad College in Sehore, about an hour’s drive from Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. It was a short visit, but long enough to see that college students the world over have similar dreams and see higher education as a way to realize them.

Access and equity in technical skills enhances dignity among youth

Ahamad Tanvirul Alam Chowdhury's picture
Students of Computer Engineering Department receiving training
Students of Computer Engineering Department receiving training

“I am proud today to have acquired technical skills to get an edge in a constantly changing global job market. In 2014, I was lucky to get the chance to participate in the skills competition organized by Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP). After a month of hard-work, I was the winner. This motivated and inspired me to pursue my future career. Technical skills helped me achieve personal and professional fulfilment, said Jarin Tasnima, a student of Computer Engineering Department of the Dhaka Mohila Polytechnic. 

Following the footsteps of students like Jarin Tasnima, Bithi, an architecture student is planning to participate in the next skills competition, scheduled for the end of 2015. She is the youngest member of a family of four and lacked the financial means to pay for her school.

Her brother, an accountant found out that having technical skills led to better pay and increased social respect. He motivated his younger sister to choose a technical career path in which she selected architecture. After achieving a secondary school certificate, her dreams came true due to a stipend program at the Dhaka Mohila Polytechnic supported by STEP which paid her fees. “I am thankful to my brother for advising me to join Polytechnic Institute to enhance my career,” said Bithi.