Gender inequity costs Africa $95b
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.
WOMEN in sub-saharan africa on average earn 30 percent less than men