ADDIS ABABA, May 3, 2018 – Ethiopia’s economy could potentially lose billions of dollars annually due to child marriage, says a new report by the World Bank and the International Center for Research for Women, which was launched today together with the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs. In contrast, ending the practice of child marriage would have a large positive effect on the educational attainment of girls and their children, reduce population growth, and increase women’s expected earnings and household welfare.
The report, titled Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Ethiopia Synthesis Report, is part of a global program of work funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education. According to the study, the prevalence of child marriage (marriage or union before the age of 18) remains high in Ethiopia, affecting more than one in three girls. In addition, almost one in five girls gives birth before the age of 18.
“Child brides are often robbed of their rights to safety and security, to health and education, and to make their own life choices and decisions,” said Quentin Wodon, Lead Economist at the World Bank and author of the report. “Child marriage not only puts a stop to girls’ hopes and dreams. It also hampers efforts to end poverty and achieve economic growth and equity. Ending this practice is not only the morally right thing to do but also the economically smart thing to do.”
In Ethiopia, about four out of five early childbirths (children born to a mother younger than 18) are attributed to child marriage. The report estimates that a girl marrying at 13 will have on average 24 percent more children over her lifetime than if she had married at age 18 or later. Ending child marriage could reduce total fertility rates by 13 percent nationally, leading to reductions in population growth over time. The analysis suggests that by 2030, gains in annual welfare thanks to higher GDP per capita from lower population growth could reach close to $5 billion in Ethiopia.
Child brides are much more likely to drop out of school and complete fewer years of education than their peers who marry later. This affects in turn the education of their children. The report suggests that keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to avoid child marriage and early childbearing. In Ethiopia, each year of secondary education may reduce the likelihood of child marriage by six percentage points.
The report also points out that child marriage has a negative impact on the health and well-being of women, including by increasing the risk of intimate partner violence and negatively affecting their psychological well-being. Ending child marriage, on the other hand, could reduce rates of under-five mortality and stunting among children.
Another important benefit from ending child marriage would be an increase in women’s expected earnings in the labor market. In part because they tend to drop out of school once married, child brides earn on average less than the girls who marry later on. The losses in earnings today for women in Ethiopia due to past child marriages is estimated at $1.6 billion.
Finally, budget savings would be reaped by the government in the cost of providing basic education, health, and other services. In Ethiopia, as in other countries, thanks to lower population growth from ending child marriage, the cost for the government of providing basic services would be reduced, with larger savings over time.