Growing the ‘economic pie’ in Armenia

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In earlier posts, I highlighted the importance of creating equal opportunities for all of Armenia’s girls and boys – to learn, to grow, and to choose the ways in which they can contribute to their economy, their society, and their country. I believe that a more diversified and resilient economy, with a fuller range of options for both men and women, can help slow outmigration  and ‘brain drain’, and help Armenia grow in a sustainable way.

In addition to our discussions here in Armenia about encouraging women’s participation in the labor market, we’ve also been talking about the ways in which men’s lives and livelihoods are disadvantaged, such as the persistent higher mortality rate for men throughout their adult years. And, we’ve been wondering: how do dynamics like these affect the economy and society as a whole?

In March, I suggested that perhaps Armenia is missing out on a key building block for economic growth because women get educated and then don’t use those skills and talents in the economy.  Armenia prides itself on being a nation that values and invests in education, and the national vision is of a country where progress is driven by knowledge and innovation.
 
And it’s true: educational attainment is high, even higher for young women than young men at tertiary levels. But – this investment in women’s education is not being transformed into value in the economy or wages in the household.
 
Growing the ‘economic pie’ in Armenia

Of course, we’d always like the economy to be bigger, to grow faster, and to include more workers and firms. But many of Armenia’s economic challenges are caused by factors outside its borders – difficult geography, limited connectivity, regional and global pressures, and volatility in commodity prices.

Maybe participation in the labor market in these difficult times is a ‘zero sum game’? Meaning that raising women’s participation in the formal economy would simply displace workers already participating. Or will more participation just cut the economic pie into smaller and smaller slices?

In the end, is it simply that those barriers we’ve been talking about – discrimination due to social norms, care responsibilities, lack of information, conflicting time demands for domestic work – are only about fairness, and not about economic growth? Let’s discuss again …

Next week … In Armenia, is the ‘economic pie’ smaller than it should be? 
 
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Authors

Laura Bailey

Global Lead for Stability Peace and Security, Lead Social Development Specialist

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