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PRESS RELEASE May 14, 2018

Western Balkans Officials Pledge to Improve Economic Opportunities for Women and Girls

VIENNA, May 14, 2018 – Senior officials and representatives from the Western Balkans have committed to improving gender equality by endorsing a communiqué on improving access to economic opportunities for women and girls during a World Bank workshop, held today in Vienna. The communique focuses on improving gender equality by promoting better access to jobs and assets and the ability of institutions to monitor progress on gender equality.

“The importance of increasing access to opportunities for women in the Western Balkans is critical for growth, development, and EU accession,” says Linda Van Gelder, World Bank Regional Director for the Western Balkans. “This agenda received a big boost today by Western Balkans officials pledging to ensure more women find paid employment in higher skilled and better paying jobs.”

Estimates show that up to 18 percent of regional GDP is lost due to gender gaps in the labor market. Girls and women in the Western Balkans, although better educated than before, still do not participate equally in the labor market and, when they do, are more likely to be employed in low-skilled and low-paying jobs. During the workshop, Unleashing Economic Growth Potential in the Western Balkans By Improving Equity and Gender Equality in Access to Economic Opportunities, government officials from the six Western Balkan countries joined the World Bank experts and representatives from international organizations to discuss the economic and social costs of excluding women. Also discussed were the benefits of promoting equality in entrepreneurship and access to the labor market, as well as monitoring and evaluation of progress on gender issues.

The communiqué that was endorsed today confirms a commitment to gender and equity that is aligned with ongoing efforts to strengthen regional cooperation in the Wester Balkans and address common challenges. These efforts will include peer-to-peer exchanges and a mutually-agreed monitoring of progress.

These commitments are in line with Sustainable Development Goal Five to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, as well as Chapter 19 and Chapter 23 of the European Union’s (EU) Acquis Communautaire on Employment and Fundamental Rights and Access to Justice. All six Western Balkan countries are considered Candidate Countries or Potential Candidate Countries on their path towards EU accession. The World Bank will continue to work in close cooperation with European Commission, UN Women, German Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GiZ), and Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), and other development partners to support the gender equality agenda in the Western Balkans, either through analytical work, dialogue or operational engagement.



Kym Smithies