Honorable Speaker of Parliament Ms. Topalli
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for inviting me to attend the Opening of the Forum for the European and Regional Joint Activities.
As you may know, the latest World Development Report, the flagship annual report of the World Bank, is about Gender Equality and Development. Evidence from around the world points out that societies that promote more equal opportunities for men and women also have higher growth, lower poverty, and better development outcomes. Gender disparities, many of which begin at childhood, have significant adverse long-term effects on both individuals and societies. Women and girls bear the largest and most direct costs of these disparities, but the costs cut more broadly across societies, ultimately harming everyone.
According to this Report, the developing countries of Europe have made consistent investment in women as well as men over decades. In education, relative parity exists among men and women at the primary and secondary level, while at the tertiary level enrolment rates for women exceed those of men. Yet, there remain large gender differences in access to economic opportunities, earnings, and productivity.
Across the developing countries of Europe, female labor force participation rates have remained largely stagnant in the past decade, and now lag behind those of OECD and East Asia and Pacific countries. Though women in these European countries have more years of education than men and many are professionals and technicians, women’s earnings are on average about 20 percent less than men’s. While the situation differs across countries, generally, women in the region are also under-represented in private sector leadership roles. Where women manage firms, they are usually and more so than men operating at an inefficiently small scale, and on average pay 0.6 percentage points’ higher interest rates.
The situation of women in Albania has been improving over the past decade. Younger generations of women are now not only better educated than their mothers, they are also better educated than their male counterparts. Recent data shows that Albanian girls are more likely than boys to be literate and have better performances in the standardized tests. Similarly, they are more likely to complete secondary school and receive a university degree. While women employment has been affected by the chaotic process of transition, more working-age Albanian women have entered the labor force in the recent years.
Yet, their employment significantly lags that of men. Unpaid family work, as housewife, remains the main reason for their non-participation. Women who do enter the job market face a higher unemployment rate than men, especially in urban areas. They also remain underrepresented in positions of authority within the workplace. Women hold just one in five top management positions and only one in ten firms is owned by a woman. And while more than a third of full-time manufacturing jobs are held by women, less than nine percent are in non-production work. Women also bring home less money each week and earn less per hour, though they work almost as many hours as men. To conclude, accessing paid employment and economic opportunities in a gender equal manner remain an important challenge. Similarly, there is progress but yet more needs to be done with respect to women involvement in the political sphere.
The World Bank has been involved in analytical and project work on gender issues for a long time. Through the Civil Society Fund, for example, we have supported many Albania NGOs in their activities supporting women and reducing gender disparities. This year program entirely focused on the gender dimension. The 11 winning projects are addressing disparities in human capital - access to education, social protection, and health services; promoting equal socio-economic opportunities with respect to labor market and property rights; and supporting women empowerment, especially women from marginalized groups and Roma women. Some of the projects deal with gender stereotypes and mindset change, by increasing community awareness about gender equality and domestic violence, which remains a serious concern. Strikingly, half of all women report surviving some form of abuse. These projects are implemented all over the country.
As in Albania, more can be done – and will be done - in our program. We have now started working more closely with development partners that have been leaders in this field such as UN Women. We have committed to identifying and pursuing opportunities for closing gender disparities in everything we do – from helping countries develop better data that would allow analyzing and monitoring these disparities, to factoring the different constraints that male and female beneficiaries may face in the design of World Bank-financed projects. In the next few months we will be able to share with you the findings of the on-going analytical work on gender issues in the region, the gender profile of Albania, and gender differences in access to land rights. All of this, we believe, will increase the effectiveness of our program and help Albanians to realize their development and EU integration goals.
I also believe that initiatives like this Forum where we can highlight the centrality of gender issues for development, exchange information, share our knowledge and coordinate our work programs will help accelerate real changes on the ground.
I wish you all a successful Forum.