Long one of the world’s most unequal countries, Brazil surprised pundits by recording a massive reduction in household income inequality in the last couple of decades. Between 1995 and 2012, the country’s Gini coefficient for household incomes fell by seven points, from 0.59 to 0.52. (For comparison, all of the inequality increase in the United States between 1967 and 2011 amounted to eight Gini points – according to this study.)
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Land and property lie at the center of many of today’s pressing development challenges. Consider that at most 10% of land in rural Africa is reliably registered. At this week‘s annual Land and Poverty Conference here at the World Bank, we will hear how this vast gap in documentation of land gap blunts access to opportunities and key services for millions of the world’s poorest people, contributes to gender inequality, and undermines environmental sustainability.
Although countries have dramatically closed gender gaps in education and labor force participation, gender differences within education and employment persist. Women earn less income and work in lower paying occupations and sectors than men do. Women are less likely to become entrepreneurs, and, when they do, they typically run smaller, less-profitable firms. These gender gaps in entrepreneurship, incomes, and productivity persist at all levels of development, despite a multitude of policies aimed at eliminating them. And as countries move forward with closing glaring gender differences, other gaps become visible.
In 2014, Australian startup founder Evan Thornley gave a talk at a technology startup conference about why he likes to hire women. So far, so good. However, things quickly deteriorated when he explained that part of the reason was that women were “still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender”, illustrated by a slide that read “Women. Like men, only cheaper”.
While the ensuing media outcry quickly forced Thornley to backtrack on his comments, the reality his slide so eloquently put into words is not so easily revised. Even in Silicon Valley, considered one of the most forward-thinking industries in the world, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts.
Rural areas are changing rapidly, but the shift does not affect women and men in the same way.
In the process of rural development and transformation, as employment for both women and men expands in other sectors, employment in the agricultural sector is expected to shrink. Yet delving through available data and the literature, we find that the reality isn’t quite that simple. In a great number of developing countries, as men move out of family farming, women tend to stay--or move out of the sector a lot more slowly. Many women even take on new jobs and responsibilities in agriculture. We call this phenomenon the ‘feminization’ of agriculture.
When I was a high school student in Belgium, our history textbook included a reproduction of a painting entitled “The Drunkard” by Eugène Laermans. The painting was included in the section describing the history of the labor movement in the country and its achievements in passing legislation aimed at improving the situation of the working class. In particular, the painting was meant to illustrate why the Belgian law introducing child benefits – monthly transfers to all families raising children until age 18 (or until age 25 as long as they are still students) - stipulates that these benefits are paid to the mother. The law still holds today, even if it allows for exceptions when the mother is not present in the household.
Many laws prohibiting a range of gender violence have been ineffective in reducing the prevalence of harmful practices. This is mainly due to the influential role that deeply rooted social norms—one of multiple and sometimes competing normative orders people adhere to—play in determining behavior and outcomes.
Gender-based violence (GBV) reflects power inequalities between women and men. Women and girls are more commonly the victims of GBV—a manifestation of power imbalance tilted in favor of men that characterizes many, mostly patriarchal, cultures around the world. Collectively shared norms about women’s subordinate role in society and violence against them can also perpetuate the power imbalance. In the upcoming World Development Report 2017 we discuss how norms can reinforce existing power inequalities in society and how change can happen.
I am honored to address the World Bank event celebrating IDAHOT 2016; and to join the activists, scholars and Bank staff, who have gathered here to celebrate inclusion. The LGBTI community ought to be part of society in every sense and be included socially, economically, and politically.
Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates cited “time poverty” as a top priority in their 2016 Annual Letter, referring to the unpaid work that disproportionately falls on women and shining a spotlight on one of the most vexing challenges economists and statisticians face: how to accurately measure women’s work.
New choruses demanding a data revolution to gauge progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals better than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, are welcome—and indeed some challenges on the data front are new. Others, however, are very, very old. Accurate measurement of women’s work and contribution to productivity remains one of the latter.
Policymakers operate with a truncated view of the economy—with little idea of how growth impacts, or is affected by, women’s work. For the most part they fail to incorporate this work into their labour market policies.