Jakarta, September 20, 2011 – A new World Bank flagship report says gender equality matters in its own right but is also smart economics: Countries that create better opportunities for women and girls can raise productivity, improve outcomes for children, make institutions more representative, and advance development prospects for all. The World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development says Indonesia – like most developing countries – has made important progress in improving health outcomes among women and girls, and has also managed to increase women’s access to finance and justice. However, there are still areas for improvement. In terms of economic activity, for example, female-owned businesses in rural Indonesia are still less profitable than those owned by men. Education, ownership of assets, access to economic opportunities and opportunities to earn income are keys to improving women’s wellbeing and their families.
The WDR 2012 cites examples of how countries could gain by addressing disparities between men and women:
- Ensuring equal access and treatment for women farmers would increase maize yields by 11 to 16 percent in Malawi and by 17 percent in Ghana.
- Improving women’s access to agricultural inputs in Burkina Faso would increase total household agricultural production by about 6 percent, with no additional resources—simply by reallocating resources such as fertilizer and labor from men to women.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that equal access to resources for female farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5 to 4 percent.
- Eliminating barriers that prevent women from working in certain occupations or sectors would have similar positive effects, reducing the productivity gap between male and female workers by one-third to one-half and increasing output per worker by 3 to 25 percent across a range of countries.
“We need to achieve gender equality,” says World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Over the past five years, the World Bank Group has provided $65 billion to support girls’ education, women’s health, and women’s access to credit, land, agricultural services, jobs, and infrastructure. This has been important work, but it has not been enough or central enough to what we do. Going forward, the World Bank Group will mainstream our gender work and find other ways to move the agenda forward to capture the full potential of half the world’s population.”
The WDR 2012 calls for action in four areas: 1) addressing human capital issues, such as premature deaths of girls and women and gender gaps in education where these persist; 2) closing earning and productivity gaps between women and men; 3) giving women greater voice within households and societies; and 4) limiting the perpetuation of gender inequality across generations.
“Gender equality in Indonesia has improved significantly over the last two decades. Female life expectancy is 73 – higher than the global average of 71. More women are becoming entrepreneurs thanks to innovative microcredit schemes. More women are also more aware of their legal rights thanks to paralegal training in villages,” says Stefan Koeberle, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia. “Nonetheless, there are areas for improvement such as in labor participation, maternal mortality, access to formal financial institutions and also development planning and budgeting. The World Bank has been working actively with the Indonesian government on programs to increase gender equality in some of these areas.”