Gen­der in­equity costs Africa $95b

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

NAIROBI — The UN has warned African na­tions they will fail to meet their poverty re­duc­tion tar­gets un­less they tackle gen­der in­equal­ity that is cost­ing the world’s least de­vel­oped con­ti­nent tens of bil­lions of dol­lars.

The un­equal treat­ment of women in the labour mar­ket cost sub-sa­ha­ran Africa about $95bn an­nu­ally be­tween 2010 and 2014, peak­ing in 2014 at $105bn, or 6 per cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the UN De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme on Sun­day.

The re­port’s pub­li­ca­tion comes at a time when the once-boom­ing re­gion is en­dur­ing its tough­est eco­nomic pe­riod in years fol­low­ing the slow­down in China and the slump in com­mod­ity prices. Ex­perts say that ad­dress­ing the un­equal treat­ment of women in the work­place is one area where gov­ern­ments could make a dif­fer­ence.

“Coun­tries’ de­vel­op­ment goals are not go­ing to be achieved un­less women are fully part of the story, it’s as sim­ple as that,” said He­len Clark, the UNDP ad­min­is­tra­tor. “The cost of not hav­ing women par­tic­i­pate on the same level as men costs not only women and their fam­ily, it costs the whole coun­try be­cause they’re not able to make the con­tri­bu­tion they could make.”

Of Africa’s 54 coun­tries, 36 are ranked in the bot­tom bracket of the UN’S hu­man de­vel­op­ment in­dex, which mea­sures ar­eas such as life ex­pectancy, in­fant mor­tal­ity, ed­u­ca­tion and liv­ing stan­dards. The UNDP es­ti­mates half of the 36 na­tions will re­main at the lower end of the in­dex in 2030, the dead­line for the goal of erad­i­cat­ing ex­treme poverty — which is cal­cu­lated as peo­ple liv­ing on less than $1.25 a day — if gen­der in­equal­ity con­tin­ues on its cur­rent tra­jec­tory.

UN of­fi­cials said the re­port was first to study the im­pact of gen­der in­equal­ity in Africa in eco­nomic terms and added that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who have seen its find­ings are start­ing to “sit up and take no­tice”.

Women in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa on av­er­age earn 30 per cent less than men, the dif­fer­ence in labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion across the con­ti­nent is 25 per­cent­age points and 71 per cent of the bur­den of col­lect­ing house­holds’ wa­ter — which is es­ti­mated to take 40bn hours a year — falls on women and girls, the re­port states.

Uhuru Keny­atta, Kenya’s pres­i­dent, said at the re­port’s launch that “much more needs to be done” to boost gen­der equal­ity.

“As our economies grow we must strive to en­sure that the gains from our growth are felt by ev­ery­body, but not just that they’re felt,” he said. “In­deed as we’re told, it’s nec­es­sary [for women] to par­tic­i­pate if we’re to achieve the eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment that we seek.”

The UN reached its find­ings by cal­cu­lat­ing how much more wealth would be cre­ated if fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in the labour force was the same as males’ in each coun­try.

Abodoulaye Mar Di­eye, the UNDP Africa di­rec­tor, said gov­ern­ments ap­peared keen to “break gen­der is­sues out of their silo”. But he warned that “fo­cus­ing on only the pol­i­tics and the econ­omy won’t suf­fice”.

“There’s a po­lit­i­cal econ­omy, the dis­tri­bu­tion of power among men and women and the harm­ful so­cial norms,” he said. “If you don’t deal with it [th­ese norms], your in­vest­ment on the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic front will start hav­ing di­min­ish­ing re­turns.”

Women’s re­stricted ac­cess to as­sets, such as a wide­spread in­abil­ity to in­herit land, low sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion en­rol­ment and be­ing forced into early mar­riage were among the is­sues Mr Di­eye re­ferred to.

Anzetse Were, a Nairobi-based de­vel­op­ment economist and au­thor on gen­der is­sues, said. “Girls are def­i­nitely be­ing em­pow­ered more than they were but only to a cer­tain age and stage in their lives — un­til they get mar­ried.”

“I’m find­ing that young boys are not still be­ing raised prop­erly, so they’ll be prob­lem­atic hus­bands,” she said.

— FT

WOMEN in sub-sa­ha­ran africa on av­er­age earn 30 per­cent less than men

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.