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Moving Backwards: Ten Years of Progress on Global Gender Parity Stalls in 2017

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A decade of slow but steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt in 2017, with the global gender gap widening for the first time since the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006.

The findings in this year’s report, published today, show that, overall, 68% of the global gender gap has been closed. This is a slight deterioration on 2016 and 2015, when the gap was 68.3% and 68.1%, respectively. Behind the decline is a widening of the gender gap across all four of the report’s pillars: Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, Economic Opportunity and Political Empowerment. These latter two areas are of particular concern because they already carry the largest gaps and, until this year, were registering the fastest progress.

At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to close, compared to 83 last year. The workplace gender gap will now not be closed for 217 years, the report estimates. But with various studies linking gender parity to better economic performance, a number of countries are bucking the dismal global trend: over one-half of all 144 countries measured this year have seen their score improve in the past 12 months.

“We are moving from the era of capitalism into the era of talentism. Competitiveness on a national and on a business level will be decided more than ever before by the innovative capacity of a country or a company. Those will succeed best, who understand to integrate women as an important force into their talent pool,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.

The Global Gender Gap Index 2017

At the top of the Global Gender Gap Index is Iceland. Having closed nearly 88% of its gap, it has been the world’s most gender-equal country for nine years. The gap between Iceland and the second-placed country, Norway, actually widens as both Norway and third-placed Finland saw their gaps widen this year. The top five is completed by Rwanda (4) and Sweden (5). The next two countries in the Index, Nicaragua (6) and Slovenia (7), also achieve symbolic milestones this year closing 80% of their gaps for the first time. Ireland (8), New Zealand (9) and Philippines (10) make up the top 10.

Among the G20 group of countries, France (11) is ranked highest on gender parity, followed by Germany (12), the United Kingdom (15), Canada (16), South Africa (19) and Argentina (34). The US drops four places to 49 while, at the lower end of the group, no fewer than six countries rank at or above 100. These are China (100), India (108), Japan (114), Republic of Korea (118), Turkey (131) and Saudi Arabia (138).

Looking at the individual pillars of the Index, the report finds that in 2017 that 27 countries have now closed the gender gap in Educational Attainment; three more countries than last year. A total of 34 countries – four less than last year – have closed their Health and Survival gender gaps. Only six countries have closed the gap in both of these pillars. In Economic Participation and Opportunity, no country has fully closed the gender gap but 13 countries (two more than last year) have closed more than 80% of their gap. Political Empowerment has the widest gender gap with only Iceland having closed more than 70% of the gap. Four countries have crossed the 50% threshold and 34 countries have closed less than 10% of the gap (five less than last year). Weighted by population, 95 countries rank below the Political Empowerment sub-index world average (0.227) this year.

“In 2017 we should not be seeing progress towards gender parity shift into reverse. Gender equality is both a moral and economic imperative. Some countries understand this and they are now seeing dividends from the proactive measures they have taken to address their gender gaps,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of Education, Gender and Work, World Economic Forum.

Regional Analysis

Western Europe remains the highest-performing region in the Index with an average remaining gender gap of 25%. The region is home to four of the global top five countries in the Index – Iceland (1), Norway (2), Finland (3) and Sweden (5) – highlighting the continued progress of the Nordic countries in closing their overall gender gaps. At the bottom ranks of the region are Greece (78), Italy (82), Cyprus (92) and Malta (93). Out of the 20 countries in the region covered by the Index this year, nine have improved their overall score since last year, while 11 have seen it decrease.

North America has a remaining gender gap of 28%, the smallest after Western Europe. Both Canada (16) and the United States (49) have closed more than 70% of their overall gender gap.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia has closed on average 71% of its gender gap. Three countries from the region rank in the global top 20: Slovenia (7), Bulgaria (18) and Latvia (20). The bottom ranks are made up of Armenia (97), Azerbaijan (98) and Hungary (103). Out of the 26 countries from the region covered by the Index this year, 18 countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while eight have decreased their overall scores.

The Latin America and Caribbean region has an average remaining gender gap of 30%. The region is home to two of the top 10 fastest-improving countries in the world since 2006: Nicaragua (6) and Bolivia (17). Brazil is one of five countries to have fully closed their educational attainment gender gap, despite ranking 90 overall. The lowest-performing countries in the region are Paraguay (96) and Guatemala (110). Of the 24 countries covered by the Index in the region this year, 18 have improved their overall score compared to last year, while six have regressed.

The East Asia and Pacific region has closed on average 68% of its gender gap. With New Zealand (9) and the Philippines (10), the region is home to two of the global top 10 performers. However the region’s larger economies perform less well: with China ranking 100 and Japan and the Republic of Korea ranking 114 and 118, respectively, it is clear that their remains much economic upside from making a more pronounced effort towards gender parity.

Sub-Saharan Africa displays a wider range of gender gap outcomes than any other region, with three countries; Rwanda (4), Namibia (13) and South Africa (19) in the global top 20, as well as many of the lowest-ranked countries in the Index, such as Mali (139) and Chad (141). Of the 30 countries from the region covered by the Index this year, 13 countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while 17 have seen it decrease.

South Asia has an average remaining gender gap of 34%. Bangladesh (47) is the only country in the region to feature in the top 100, with India ranking 108 and Pakistan 143. Of the seven countries from the region included in the Index this year, three countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while four have seen it decrease.

The Middle East and North Africa is the lowest-ranked region in the Index with an average remaining gender gap of 40%. In addition to Israel (44), the region’s best-performing countries are Tunisia (117), the United Arab Emirates (120) and Bahrain (126). The region is home to four of the world’s five lowest-ranking countries on Political Empowerment – Kuwait (129), Lebanon (137), Qatar (130) and Yemen (144). However out of the 17 countries covered by the Index in the region this year, 11 countries have improved their overall score compared to last year.

Time to Parity

At this rate of progress, it will take another century to close the overall global gender gap, compared to 83 years last year. The most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic and health spheres. At the current rate of change, it will take another 217 years to close the economic gender gap. This represents a reversal of progress and is the lowest-value measured by the Index since 2008. The Forum’s Closing the Gender Gap project aims to accelerate the pace of change on gender parity through global dialogue and a national public-private collaboration model currently active in three countries with further expansion planned for 2018.

Progress across the health gender gap remains undefined. Formally the smallest gap, progress has oscillated with a general downward trend. Today, the gap is larger than it stood in 2006, in part due to specific issues in select countries, in particular China and India. Although it exhibits the most progress, the political gender gap is the widest and could take another 99 years to close. On the other hand, with current trends, the education gender gap could be closed within the next 13 years.

All regions record a narrower gender gap than they did 11 years ago, despite stalled progress at the global level. At today’s rates of progress, the overall global gender gap can be closed in 61 years in Western Europe, 62 years in South Asia, 79 years in Latin America and the Caribbean, 102 years in Sub-Saharan Africa, 128 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 157 years in the Middle East and North Africa, 161 years in East Asia and the Pacific, and 168 years in North America.

The Economic Case for Parity

Various studies have suggested that improving gender parity may result in significant economic dividends, which vary depending on the situation of different economies and the specific challenges they are facing. Notable recent estimates suggest that economic gender parity could add an additional $250 billion to the GDP of the United Kingdom, $1,750 billion to that of the United States, $550 billion to Japan’s, $320 billion to France’s and $310 billion to the GDP of Germany.

Other recent estimates suggest that China could see a $2.5 trillion GDP increase from gender parity and that the world as a whole could increase global GDP by $5.3 trillion by 2025 if it closed the gender gap in economic participation by 25% over the same period. Given associated government revenue shares in GDP, the latter achievement would also unlock an additional $1.4 trillion in global tax revenue, most of it ($940 billion) in emerging economies, suggesting the potential self-financing effects of additional public investment into closing global gender gaps.

The economic case for parity also exists at the industry and enterprise-level and a key avenue for further progress entails addressing the current imbalances by sector. In research with LinkedIn, the report finds that men are under-represented in education, and health and welfare, while women are under-represented in engineering, manufacturing and construction, and information, communication and technology. Such segmentation by gender means that each sector loses out on the potential benefits of greater gender diversity: greater innovation, creativity and returns. However these gaps are not only a pipeline problem, i.e. regardless of the levels of women going into professions, across the board men hold more leadership positions. Consequently, it will not be enough to focus on correcting imbalances in education and training; change is also needed within companies.

Methodology

The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 144 countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators. It aims to understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:

  1. Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and leadership
  2. Education – access to basic and higher levels of education
  3. Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures
  4. Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio

Index scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men, and allow countries to compare their current performance relative to their past performance. In addition, the rankings allow for comparisons between countries. A total of 13 out of the 14 variables used to create the Index are from publicly available hard data indicators from international organizations, such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization, and one comes from a perception survey conducted by the World Economic Forum. Last year’s edition introduced an updated threshold for estimating gender parity in earned income. This year’s edition removes this income level cap completely and also updates its primary reference source for the sex ratio at birth indicator.

System Initiative on Education, Gender and Work

The World Economic Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work aims to enable people to fulfil their full potential by developing and deploying their talent, thereby contributing to more prosperous economies and societies.

Across its three modules the System Initiative offers: knowledge tools such as the Global Gender Gap Report, the Global Human Capital Report, the Future of Jobs Report; dialogue series such as Creating the Care Economy and Reskilling the Adult Workforce and; public-private collaboration such as Closing the Skills Gap, Preparing for the Future of Work and Closing the Gender Gap. The System Initiative is led by a globally renowned Stewards group composed of the most relevant individuals and organizations from around the world, including chief executive officers, ministers, academics and heads of international organizations.

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New Social Compact

Poverty should be our history, not present

Dr. Rashid Bajwa

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17th October presents an opportunity to not only acknowledge the struggle of our fellow humans suffering from poverty but also gives us a chance to examine what we in our capacity have done and plan to help them in their struggles. Martin Luther King once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Going by that, there should come a time in every person’s life when they break the shackles of silence and talk about things which matter on a larger scale. When UN General Assembly adopted the Vision 2030 agenda with 17 SDGs, the first goal out of the these 17 was to eradicate poverty. I have had the distinct opportunity of leading Pakistan’s only countrywide rural development programme i.e. National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) for more than two decades. NRSP (combined with NRSP Bank) is the largest microfinance provider in the country focusing on rural areas. A key principle in our strategy for combating poverty is to harness people’s potential, enabling them to participate in local development activities.

One of the worst manifestations of poverty is exclusion from participation in decision making process whether at local or national level. Having said that, it is important that we realize that no one intervention is sufficient against poverty. If the challenges are multi-dimensional, the response needs to be the same. From my personal experience, I can state with some certainty that for an effective strategy on poverty eradication, a people-centered approach is the key. A policy that combines infrastructure development and livelihood strategies, with the assurance that the target community is capacitated enough to participate and make their own decisions whether political, economic or about their social life.

NRSP social mobilisation model follows an established three tiered people centric mobilization strategy to organize local communities into sustainable community institutions (CIs). The lowest tier is called community organization (CO). With an 80% representation of local households, a CO is federated into a village level organization called Village Organization (VO). Members from both CO and VO after going through capacity building trainings are federated into Local Support Organization (LSO). Village Development Plan (VDP) and Union Council Development Plan (UCDP) are two important outcomes from these CIs. Because this model ensures participation from the grassroot level, one can be sure that needs and problem identification follows a bottom to top order. Currently NRSP has formed 209,860 COs, 7,574 VOs and 820 LSOs with a total of 3,351,687 community members. 56% of these members are women.

At every CI level, members are requested, trained and facilitated to identify what are the opportunities in their lives which would help them to come out of extreme poverty. Every household makes a Micro Investment Plan (MIP) for their own house. What makes this model unique; are the four qualities that become the guiding principle of these CIs, inclusion, transparency, accountability and good governance. For any CI, to be eligible for development support, it has to meet a stringent criteria. Adherence to these principles makes these CIs sustainable, brings a sense of ownership and empowers them to address their issues themselves.

Based on the plans proposed by these CIs, the activities could be categorized in two different categories, Individual/household activities (Income generating grants, asset transfer for the destitute Access to loans capital e.g. CIF, micro credit, savings, Skills enhancement trainings leading to employment generation) and Community/Village level activities (Access to technical and financial services to accomplish the identified plans, Support for project design, resource mobilization and development of linkages with local government and other development organizations). Individual activities lead to ‘private goods’ which once sold to the consumer bring financial capital to the seller. Community/Village level activities lead to ‘public goods’ thus enhancing the functioning of the particular community. Reports on poverty in Pakistan show that as much as 40% of the population, almost half of us suffer from some form of poverty. Poverty in urban areas stands around 10% as compared to 54 % in rural areas. FATA with 73% and Balochistan with 71% poverty rate are the most affected provinces due to poverty. In 2016, Pakistan was declared of having the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) in South Asia. We have a bulging youth population and continuously increasing unemployment rate. These statistics and facts paint a grim picture.

Humans are always willing to improve their lives irrespective of their ethnicity, education, social, education or religious backgrounds.This assertion has to be the key ingredient in the policy making process for poverty eradication. NRSP is currently implementing two large scale five year projects based on the same philosophy in Sindh and Balochistan. Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support Programme (SUCCESS) and Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment (BRACE) with support from European Union (EU) and Local Governments. Especially SUCCESS in Sindh is focused on inclusion of women in the development process and all community institutions formed are women only. Women are leading the change in rural Sindh. BRACE in Balochistan also ensures that 50% of the total beneficiaries and participants of the programme are women.

These are interesting times for Pakistan. The world is changing and so is Pakistan. ICT for development in shape of digital innovation offers a new intervention for poverty alleviation. Improved access of services and products, sharing of information and ideas can open new avenues of positive change (E-Kissan is an example). Whether its health, education, agriculture or capacity building, ICT offers many tools to its users. In terms of accessibility and training, established Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) can play a lending hand. Public-private partnership can act as a catalyst in this digital transformation process. As large as the menace of poverty is in Pakistan, our response needs to be equally larger. A joint platform of all involved stakeholders can be the first step towards policy reforms that safeguard these marginalized communities against threats arising from poverty. We are not short of resources or manpower needed to do the work, what is needed is the will and effort to point us in the right policy direction.

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The Sustainable State- Book Review

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Chandran Nair’s new book, The Sustainable State, is a response to runaway consumption by a rapidly expanding world populace. He explains how the rise in living standards, especially in the developing world, is soaring an unsustainable demand for everything from meat, to cars, to modern housing and then gives possible solutions.

Nair reminds me of economist Ha-Joon Chang in both his premise and the evidence he uses to defend it.  Both scholars are highly critical of the current economic ecosystem and the multinational corporations that run it.  Nair points out that the major industries of today are what’s causing the unprecedented environmental crises that we’re experiencing today.  Not only are corporations polluting the environment and depleting natural resources, but are also covering it up and blocking possible legislative antidotes.

Thus, Nair endorses Ha-Joon Chang’s solution: East Asian-style state regulation of the economy.  Since corporations will never voluntarily do anything that will hurt their profits, a strong federal government must force them to do so through laws that have the planet’s future in mind.  The book points out that the manufacturing and sales costs of consumer products don’t reflect their full cost.  For instance, a roll of toilet paper cost the forest it came from a tree; deforestation has existentially high long-term costs to Earth’s inhabitants.  Anything produced for or shipped to market cost the world through energy consumption, if nothing else.  Thus, Nair supports making producers pay for the full cost of their merchandise through programs such as cap-and-trade and reforestation taxes.

The book gives several examples of (generally East Asian) countries and cities trying to regulate their way to higher sustainability, with varying degrees of success.  For instance, China has arguably become the world leader in terms of environmental initiatives through tough laws governing pollution and a long-term environmental strategy.  In China’s Youyu County, they went from having under 1% of land forested in 1949 to over half today.  Singapore has largely staved off the kind of affordable-housing crisis seen in major cities and city-states by instituting a comprehensive public housing system.  Jakarta, on the other hand, has struggled in their efforts to reduce their crippling traffic congestion.  For instance, when they created 3-person minimum carpool lanes, car owners simply hired pairs of people to meet the requirement.  When Jakarta changed to an odd-even license-number congestion scheme, people simply bought extra license plates.

This book fits in nicely in the post-Trump, post-Brexit era in its skepticism of Western democracy.  Example after example is given of Western government ineptitude towards environmental management, from oil lobbyists’ consistent ability to kill or water down regulations, to general short sidedness.  India’s democracy is also criticized for its failure to clean up the Ganges, among other things.  Nair has a lot of praise for single-party governments in China, Vietnam and Singapore in their recent environmental policy records.

He stresses that he isn’t anti-democratic per se, but rather, he can’t ignore the trends.  Most Western democracies are currently neutered by partisan deadlock, lobbyist money and a myopic obsession with the short term, due to the nature of the election cycle.  Single-party states, by definition, have no partisan deadlock, aren’t reliant upon lobbyist money for re-election and can implement policies that may piss off their constituents in the short term, but are critical for the future.  The recommendation is thus given that democracies stick up to corporate interests and institute long-term policies that will meaningfully address the environmental issues of the future.

The Sustainable State is sobering in its assessment of our current state of resource depletion and global warming, but also cautiously optimistic in its faith that government, when acting in good faith, can curb the excesses of industry and regenerate the planet.  There are diagnoses for specific problems, such as the wildfire haze that emanates from Borneo every year and for pollution.  The main omission of the book is in regards to the water crisis.  Nair mentions high-efficiency circular farming and water pollution, but otherwise largely ignores the disturbingly low supply of water for drinking and farming.  This deficit has already sparked conflicts in countries such as Syria and will only snowball as the population continues to explode.  Desert countries and landlocked countries will eventually succumb civil war over access to water, creating a refugee crisis that the world has never seen, if radical and affordable solutions aren’t found for supplying water for consumption and irrigation.

Chandran Nair gives plenty of real-life examples of good policies that are mitigating issues and explains why they are successful.  Oftentimes, the solution lies in the checkbook.  Governments can spend money on decades-long programs, corporations can pay through sustainability taxes and individuals can pay through gas taxes and car ownership caps.  In democratic and nondemocratic nations alike, we the people must push our leaders to do more, for the future of the human species.

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In Northern Nigeria, Online Skills Help Youth, Women Tap New Opportunities

MD Staff

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A mother holds her baby during the Click-On Kaduna Workshop held recently in Northern Nigeria. Photo: World Bank

Rashidat Sani lost her job when she was pregnant with her child.  Now a nursing mother, she has been unable to find flexible employment that would allow her to take care of her baby and earn a living.

That was before Sani attended the Click-On-Kaduna digital skills workshop earlier this year, which helped her become an “e-lancer;” a self-employed contractor who can work various online jobs.

“This workshop has been perfect for me,” said Sani. “I can stay home and take care of my baby while working on my computer. I can’t thank the organizers enough.”

Sani is one of more than 900 young people who attended the three-day workshop designed to help young Northern Nigerians tap into the digital job market. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the workshop was created by the Kaduna State government and the World Bank to increase job opportunities for the country’s youth—which currently makes up more than half its population—and decrease youth unemployment which has risen to 33%.

“There are nine million people in Kaduna State, 75% of whom are below 35,” said Muhammad Sani Abdullahi, Commissioner of Budget and Planning for Kaduna State. “There are also roughly 70,000 government jobs in the state and this cannot meet up with the job deficit.”

The hands-on workshop aimed to give unemployed and underemployed youth, women, and disadvantaged groups some of the tools needed to compete in the online job market. Sessions included practical trainings on how to set up an online profile, build a personal brand, negotiate a fair compensation, and land a first job. The workshop also provided opportunities for participants—nearly half of them women—to interact with e-lancing platforms like Upwork, a key partner of Click-On Kaduna, as well as several local platforms such as Efiko, Asuqu, MotionWares, or Jolancer.

In the last decade, digital technology has disrupted the global economy and fostered the creation of countless new markets, products, platforms, and services. Among the innovations, there has been a rise of online freelancing platforms which have enabled disadvantaged people across skills, gender and income levels to overcome physical and socio-economic barriers to earn an income through the Internet.

In Nigeria, unemployment rates have increased from 11.92 to 15.99 million in 2017, with the youth reported to be the most affected. This is further aggravated in Northern Nigeria due to its fragility and where the educational and economic infrastructures remain inadequate.

Kaduna State, located in the northern part of the country, faces these challenges. Plagued by years of endemic violence, government leaders recognize the importance of creating jobs for its young people, and the immense opportunities the digital economy offers.

Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Digital Development, said the global digital economy has given rise to a massive new market facilitated by digital platforms that are accessible to anyone who has access to the Internet.

“It is helping to promote inclusion by creating economic opportunities for youth in fragile states by equipping them with the skills needed to improve their social welfare regardless of their gender and income levels” she said. “These new income-generating opportunities need to be leveraged to create and connect people with jobs, especially women in the North who often do not have equal access to markets and jobs.”

Building on the success of the workshop, the Bank and Upwork rec+ently launched a pilot program that aims to kickstart the online careers of about 150 job seekers, expose them to more and better jobs, and contribute to Click-On-Kaduna’s sustainability and long-term impact.

Each of the selected participants will be given five tasks created under the Upwork pilot program. Once successfully completed, they will be paid for their work and rated, increasing their competitiveness for jobs on the platform. Participants will also be provided with further opportunities for mentoring and capacity building from Upwork while receiving payment for their work.

“I did not even have any idea of Upwork in the first place if it had not been for Click-On Kaduna,” said Nehemiah John, who participated in the workshop and the pilot program. “Aside from [participating in] the pilot project I am about to round a [new] contract with a client on Upwork. He requested a t-shirt design which I have done, and he liked it.”

The outcomes of the pilot program will continue to be monitored by Upwork and the Bank team, with the goal of increasing the number of people able to access online jobs and increase their incomes.

World Bank

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