World Bank Voices
Syndicate content

Labor and Social Protection

To build a brighter future, invest in women and girls

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Español | Français

Arne Hoel

As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, there has never been a more critical time to invest in people, especially in women and girls. 

Skills, knowledge, and know-how – collectively called human capital – have become an enormous share of global wealth, bigger than produced capital such as factories or industry, or natural resources.

But human capital wealth is not evenly distributed around the world, and it’s a larger slice of wealth as countries develop. How, then, can developing countries build their human capital and prepare for a more technologically demanding future?

The answer is they must invest much more in the building blocks of human capital – in nutrition, health, education, social protection, and jobs. And the biggest returns will come from educating and nurturing girls, empowering women, and ensuring that social safety nets increase their resilience.

According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – will never enter a classroom. Women’s participation in the global labor market is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men, and women’s labor force participation fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2016.

What if we could fix this? Fostering women’s labor force participation, business ownership, and improvements in productivity could add billions to the global economy.

Using adaptive social protection to cope with crisis and build resilience

Michal Rutkowski's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español
In a world increasingly filled with risk, social protection systems help individuals and families cope with civil war, natural disaster, displacement, and other shocks. ©
 Farhana Asnap/World Bank

Crisis is becoming a new normal in the world today. Over the past 30 years, the world has lost more than 2.5 million people and almost $4 trillion to natural disasters. In 2017 alone, adverse natural events resulted in global losses of about $330 billion, making last year the costliest ever in terms of global weather-related disasters. Climate change, demographic shifts, and other global trends may also create fragility risks. Currently, conflicts drive 80 percent of all humanitarian needs and the share of the extreme poor living in conflict-affected situations is expected to rise to more than 60 percent by 2030.

2017 in Review: Look at the posts you engaged with the most on social media

Zubedah Robinson's picture

2018 is here, and we hope your new year is off to a positive start! Thank you for being a part of the global movement to help end poverty. For every like, share, “heart”, retweet, you name it, thanks for engaging with our content!

Every year brings new highlights, challenges, and priorities, and 2017 was no different. Here is a look at some of the content you engaged with the most on social media in the past year:


No one should be driven into bankruptcy simply because they have to pay for healthcare for themselves or their loved ones. So unsurprisingly, you showed strong  support for #HealthforAll during the Universal Health Coverage Forum in December.

We were also very impressed to see how strongly you feel about preserving our planet. During last month’s One Planet Summit, several of you replied to the news of the World Bank’s announcement on phasing out financing of oil and gas exploration, with positivity. For example @RalienBekkers said: “Great, everyone should follow”:
Do you believe that no country can attain its full potential without the equal participation of both women and men in the country’s economy? Many of you agreed that women shouldn’t be restricted from doing some jobs, just because they are women:

Can tackling childcare fix STEM’s gender diversity problem?

Rudaba Z. Nasir's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español
Girls attend school. Pakistan. © Caroline Suzman/World Bank
Girls attend school. Pakistan. © Caroline Suzman/World Bank

Growing up in Pakistan, I often wondered why boys were expected to become doctors or engineers while girls, including me, were encouraged to pursue teaching or home economics. So, when my cousin Sana became the first woman in my family to start a career in engineering, she also became my idol. But a few months later, my excitement soured when Sana quit her job halfway through her first pregnancy. Sana’s story, however, is not unique. Women make up less than 18 percent of Pakistan’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Traditional gender roles and lack of access to formal childcare often play a critical role in many women’s decisions to forgo STEM careers.

The Middle East, version 2.0.

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

Let’s be honest. The Middle East and North Africa is burning, and in some areas it is literally burning. Conflict and fragility have long warped what once was the cradle of civilization and the inspiration for the many inventions we can’t live without today. However, in the midst of that fire hope rises, a driver of change that is transforming the ugly reality into a bright future.
After I fled the war in Iraq in 2006, I was pessimistic about what the future was holding for that region. Year after another, the domino-effect of collapse became a reality that shaped the region and its people. Yet, fast-forward to 2017, I have witnessed what I never thought I would see in my lifetime: the new renaissance in the Middle East and North Africa.
I have just recently come back from attending the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the Dead Sea in Jordan. This year, the Forum and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, partnered to bring together 100 Arab start-ups that are shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
There, the positive vibe was all around; no negativity, no pessimism. Instead there was a new sense of optimism and enthusiasm, hunger for change, and the will to take the region to a whole new future, away from conflict and the current norm of pessimism.

Three things we need to know about “SOGI”

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Also available in: Français | Español

May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, or IDAHOT.
Why should we care about IDAHOT? Because sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, matters.
Here are three things we need to know about SOGI:
First, SOGI inclusion is about zero discrimination
Despite some legal and social progress in the past two decades, LGBTI people continue to face widespread discrimination and violence in many countries. Sometimes, being LGBTI is even a matter of life and death. They may be your friends, your family, your classmates, or your coworkers.

Why solutions for young people, need to be by young people

Noreyana Fernando's picture
Also available in: Español | Français
 Nafise Motlaq / World Bank.
Statistics about young people today are alarming. A group of global leaders meeting at the World Bank agreed that youth should be given a role in finding solutions to these statistics. (Photo: Nafise Motlaq / World Bank)

Growing up in a developing country, I remember having some naive but clever solutions to the inequalities in and around my life. I had barely settled into my new teenage shoes, but I was already making indignant inquiries from my parents: “Why can’t we just fix everything for everyone?”

Ten years later — now blessed with a quality education and some work experience — those ideas today are likely less naive (and, I would hope, a little more clever). 

But where should I be vocalizing such ideas? The answer: In boardrooms, government buildings and high-level policy meetings. That is according to a group of global leaders who met at the World Bank Spring Meetings in April. 

The next frontier for social safety nets

Michal Rutkowski's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | 中文 | Español
There has been a doubling in the number of developing countries that provide social safety programs to their citizens. What is causing this shift? Photo: Mohammad Al-Arief/World Bank

Social safety nets – predictable cash grants to poor households often in exchange for children going to school or going for regular health check-ups – have become one of the most effective poverty reduction strategies, helping the poor and vulnerable cope with crises and shocks.  Each year, safety net programs in developing countries lift an estimated 69 million people living in absolute poverty and uplifting some 97 million people from the bottom 20 percent – a substantial contribution in the global fight against poverty.

To fight discrimination, we need to fill the LGBTI data gap

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Despite some progress in the past two decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people continue to face widespread discrimination and exclusion around the world. Many of them suffer from punitive laws and policies, social stigma, and even violence. They may also be subject to lower educational attainment, higher unemployment rates, poorer health outcomes, as well as unequal access to housing, finance, and social services. As a result, LGBTI people are likely overrepresented in the bottom 40% of the population.
The adverse impacts on the health and economic wellbeing of LGBTI groups—as well as on economies and societies at large—tell us one thing: exclusion and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is a serious development issue.

We’ve already taken the first steps to address this issue, such as quantifying the loss in productivity, but there is still a long way to go. Robust, quantitative data on differential development experiences and outcomes of LGBTI people is crucial, but remains scarce especially in developing countries. Such a research and data gap poses a major constraint in designing and implementing more inclusive programs and policies.
The World Bank’s SOGI Task Force—consisting of representatives from various global practices and country offices, the Gender Cross-cutting Solution Area, as well as the GLOBE staff resource group—has identified the need for quantitative data on LGBTI as a priority. 
On Zero Discrimination Day, the World Bank’s Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and SOGI Advisor Clifton Cortez explain the urgent need to fill the LGBTI data gap. They’ve also discussed why inclusion matters for development, as well as what can be done to end poverty and inequality for LGBTI and other excluded groups.


Making the World Bank Group LGBTI friendly, one step at a time

Caroline Vagneron's picture
Also available in: Français | Español

The business case for greater diversity and inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) staff is now well documented, and the corporate world is making solid progress towards LGBTI equality at the workplace. The message is also slowly but surely sinking into international organizations such as the World Bank Group, for which diversity is also synonymous with greater productivity, collaboration, innovation and creativity. In particular, LGBTI-supportive policies are linked to less discrimination against LGBTI employees and more open corporate cultures. Less discrimination and more openness (or less concealment), in turn, are also linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, improved health outcomes (concealment of sexual orientation is associated with increased psychological distress) and increased productivity among LGBTI employees.