Women empowerment and economic growth

Empowered women are strength of nation. Women’s need to be empowered through various policy tools so that they contribute towards growth of economy. Women’s economic empowerment includes women’s ability to equally participate in all economic activities including equal access to and control over productive resources, access to decent work, and participation in economic decision-making at different levels from household to international institutions.

For long women’s role in economic growth was ignored. But now it has been realized that women make up 50% of global population so their contribution towards economic growth should also be equal. Women’s economic empowerment enhances productivity and diversified economy.

Women Empowerment is part of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 5 for achieving gender equality.

To assess the gender gap between nations Global Gender Gap Index was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 for highlighting the magnitude of gender-based disparities among nations and their progress. Report indicates strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its economic performance. Because women account for one-half of a country’s potential resource base, a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its women. 

Many developing countries are performing poorly in terms of gender equality that is even affecting their economic performance. Law is one of factors that is accelerating the problem of gender gaps in developing countries. According to World Bank 2018, globally over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. Out of 189 economies assessed, 104 economies have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs, 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 economies, and husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.

Global situation

Globally women’s make 70 per cent of world’s poor and earn only 10 per cent of world’s income. Such disparity is true for most developing countries. While Women’s in developed countries are empowered in terms of equal rights. Education is an important tool for women’s empowerment. Increased educational attainment accounts for about 50 per cent of the economic growth in OECD countries over the past 50 years.

 According to Global Gender Gap 2015 index developed countries like Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland have closed over 80 per cent of their gender gaps, while many developing countries in Asia and Africa are still having gap between 30-40 per cent in various areas. These gaps include educational, health, survival gap etc. Educational gap results in pay gap. Globally, women are paid less than men. The gender wage gap is estimated to be 23 per cent. This means that women earn 77 per cent of what men earn.

There is also gap in leadership positions. Across the 149 countries only 17 countries have women as heads of state.  According to report women hold just 34 per cent of managerial positions across the countries and less than 7 per cent in the four worst-performing countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.

Developing Countries

Developing nations need women’s empowerment, especially for girls who suffer from various deprivations since their birth. They are deprived from various rights including right to education which in future culminates into various aspects of poverty.

Again women in developing countries are over-represented in informal and vulnerable employment. From the latest available data, the share of women in informal employment in developing countries was 4.6 percentage points higher than that of men, when including agricultural workers, and 7.8 percentage points higher when excluding them.

Rwanda and Women’s Empowerment

Rwanda is one of fastest growing economies of Africa. Rwanda is also one of developing countries performing well in terms of women’s empowerment. Rwanda’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy 2013-2018 ensures that gender equality and the empowerment of women are integrated into every aspect of work to support Rwanda to become Middle -Income country.  High women empowerment and economic growth proves that there is positive relation between two.

Recommendations

Empowerment of women through their status improvement in political, social, economic and health areas is significantly necessary. They are important source of human capital and if they lag behind or deprived of equal rights it will affect the performance of nation. Developing countries need  policy and program actions that could improve women’s status in society and in turn will also become source of country’ economic growth.

The writer is a Communications Consultant at P&L Consulting Ltd based in Nairobi, Kenya. (dinahwakio@gmail.com)

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