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Public Sector and Governance

South Asia can get more women to work

Hiska Reyes's picture
 World Bank
South Asian countries are making progress in clearing the way for women to get jobs and creating a safer work environment for them. Yet, too many women across South Asia are left out of the workforce—and that despite booming economic growth. Credit: World Bank

This blog is part of a series examining women’s economic empowerment in South Asia. Starting today on International Women's Day and over the next few weeks, we will be exploring successful interventions, research, and experience to improve gender equality across the region. 

Meet Fazeela Dharmaratne from Sri Lanka.
 
Her story, like that of millions of other women in South Asia, is one of struggle between family and work and a story worth telling as we mark International Women’s Day.
 
Unlike too many of her female peers, Fazeela was able to reinvent herself professionally.
 
As a young woman, straight out of school, she joined a bank in Colombo as a banking assistant. In 17 years, she climbed up the corporate ladder to become regional manager—a position she later quit to care for her children.
 
Unfazed, Fazeela started her own small home-based daycare business in 2012, initially serving only 4-5 children. Today, Fazeela is the director of the CeeBees pre-school and childcare centers serving several corporate clients in Colombo.
 
Fazeela’s success belies the fact that across South Asia too many women are left out of the workforce—and that despite booming economic growth.
 
And while employment rates have gone down across the region, women account for most of this decline.
 
Between 2005 and 2015, women’s employment declined by 5 percent a year in India, 3 percent a year in Bhutan, and 1 percent a year in Sri Lanka.
 
These numbers are worrying because a drop in female employment has important social costs.
 
First, when women control a greater share of household incomes, children are healthier and do better in school.
 
Second, when women work for pay, they have a greater voice in their households, in their communities, and society.
 
Conversely, the economic gains from women participating equally in the labor market are sizable.
 
A recent study by the International Monetary Fund estimated that closing gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship in South Asia would help grow the economy by about 25 percent. 
 
The good news is that South Asian countries are making progress in clearing the way for women to get jobs and creating a safer work environment for them.  

Five facts about gender equality in the public sector

Rong Shi's picture



Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

It is a well-known, if unacceptable, fact that women globally earn significantly less than men for doing the same work. In the United States, women famously earn “79 cents to the dollar a man earns”, and similar disparities hold across developed and developing countries for wage labor (WDR, 2012). 

Sri Lanka’s women want to work—and thrive in the workplace

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
A woman hand painting fabric in a local Batik fabric factory
A Sri Lankan woman is hand painting fabric in a local Batik fabric factory. Matale, Sri Lanka. Credit: Shutterstock. January 3, 2017.

It’s International Women’s Day today, and there is a lot to celebrate in Sri Lanka and beyond.

Being a woman, mother, sister, aunt – name it, it’s something women wake up to daily and they love it.  None of them question about being enumerated for these roles.  We marvel and revel in the roles. 

But make no mistake. Women are also very capable breadwinners, contributors to the economies, innovators and entrepreneurs amongst many other roles.

Women want to work, and they want to stay in the workplace. 

What they seek is balance: a gender-balanced workplace, a gender-balanced management, and more gender-balance in sharing wealth and prosperity. 

In that sense, it’s heartening to see some of the proposals put forth in the government of Sri Lanka’s budget: more daycare centers, flexible work hours, and incentives to promote maternity leave. 

These are very welcome changes to think equal, build smart, innovate for change—the 2019 International Women's Day campaign theme—and we encourage those with jobs to implement these policy changes. 

This year, let me share with you a quick analysis of five laws that Sri Lankan women and their advocates have identified as constraining for joining the workforce and staying there! 

Holding up half the sky—and some blogs

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture


Pexels | rawpixels.com

Bloggers write to share unique insights. They may want to simply share knowledge, push an issue forward, establish thought leadership, and in some cases drive business.

Bloggers also create community. For example, this blog platform reaches a subscribed community (25K in number!) interested in infrastructure finance, PPPs, and the use of guarantees to spur private-sector investments—especially in developing countries. With niche topics like this, a blogspace becomes a virtual gathering place where we can exchange war stories, spectacular examples, best practices, trends, and opinions. We can know that others care about the same topics. We can also blog to shape the demographics of discourse and raise specific voices.

Expand exports to resolve the South Asian paradox

Hartwig Schafer's picture
South Asia has grown strongly to reduce poverty and create jobs, but the region remains a development paradox


South Asia has grown strongly to reduce poverty and create jobs, but the region remains a development paradox: Despite strong growth job creation remains weak and is often of poor quality.

Sri Lanka grew at an average rate of 5.8 percent from 2010-2017 but the growth of new job opportunities is below what many had hoped for. Most Sri Lankans still lack a regular job in the formal economy, and huge differences in pay among workers exist.

Meanwhile, trade in goods as a share of the economy is much lower than in other regions. The trends in Sri Lanka and much of South Asia differ from other regions, where trade, growth and jobs are directly connected and go hand in hand. This South Asian paradox raises the question of how governments can boost job growth, and how to raise the quality of new jobs so that economic development brings more shared prosperity.

A new report by the World Bank and the International Labour Organization (ILO) finds that increasing exports has the potential to contribute to a broader strategy for promoting growth, job creation and shared prosperity.

Titled “Exports to Jobs: Realizing the Gains from Trade,” the report shows how higher exports can translate into benefits for workers across the country, and it therefore recommends policies to expand exports together with policies that help sharing these benefits more widely, for example through measures that help workers get the skills needed to compete for new formal-sector jobs.

Accelerating Vietnam’s path to prosperity

Makhtar Diop's picture
Da Nang, Vietnam. © Pixabay
Da Nang, Vietnam. © Pixabay

Vietnam continues to boom. It is one of the most dynamic emerging markets in East Asia, marked, over the past thirty years, by a remarkable reduction in poverty and impressive economic growth—which has benefited the population of Vietnam. Few countries around the world could boast a 2018 growth rate of 7.1 percent, supported by strong exports and a growing share of formal employment, especially in manufacturing.
 
Infrastructure has been a central factor of Vietnam’s fast-paced economic development. Today, 99 percent of the population uses electricity as their main source of lighting, up from 14 percent in 1993. However, economic growth is putting increasing pressure on Vietnam’s infrastructure. Freight volumes are expanding rapidly. Road traffic has increased by an astounding 11 percent annually and the demand for energy is expected to grow by about 10 percent per year until 2030.

Kenya taps innovative digital mapping to enhance public participation

Rose Wanjiru's picture
OpenStreetMap of Kenya

Kenya is well known for its innovation in technology, particularly mobile technology in cash transfers. These innovations have largely been championed by the private sector and young entrepreneurs.

In contrast, the public sector tends to play catch up adopting new technology, and that has remained true in implementing Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS, also referred to as digital maps, is utilized to capture, store, analyze, manage, and present geographic data.

The true romance of PPPs: Make them pay!

Jeff Delmon's picture

Legenda | Shutterstock

This is one in a series of blogs by Jeff Delmon using the metaphor of marriage (or divorce) to explore the dynamics of public-private partnerships (PPPs) as relationships created between two parties.
 

How has Citizens’ Charter brought positive change in Jalalabad, Afghanistan?

Akram Sajid's picture
 Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
Residents discussing their community development projects in a Community Development Council meeting in Jalalabad city. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
The Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (Citizens’ Charter) is a national program to provide every village and city in Afghanistan with basic services, such as water, roads, and electricity—based on decisions made by the community.
 
When we first started activities in Jalalabad city, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, people were not familiar with community driven programs in urban areas; and there was no tradition of cooperation among different members of the community to jointly solve issues. Their relations with local government, especially the municipality, were weak since it could not address many of their basic needs, like access to clean drinking water.
 
As the Citizens’ Charter Communication and Outreach Officer in Jalalabad, I initially felt that community members were not feeling empowered and, therefore, didn’t see the value of working together to increase the prosperity of their community.
 
Before the project started in 2017, there were no organized councils that people could turn to, to address their shared problems. Shir Mohammad, a resident from Jalalabad’s District 5, told me: “It was so hard to gather people to discuss an issue in the area.
 

The new wealth of governments? Marrying digital and physical assets

Fabian Seiderer's picture
Vector Designed By Matt Francis from Pngtree

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a set of three blogs. While this blog focuses on pushing for a better marriage of digital and physical assets across governments, the other blogs look at the opportunities provided by disruptive technologies, policies and greater citizen engagement
 
Forests, lands, buildings, and roads are physical assets that all make up a significant part of the wealth of nations, much of it controlled by governments. Less obvious but equally important are intangible capital and digital assets.  Both the World Bank’s Changing Wealth of Nations 2018 and the Brookings Institution’s The Public Wealth of Cities state that governments could reap massive rewards by better utilizing their assets, both physical and digital. But do governments actually know what they own, what they are and their actual value?


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