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TitleToward gender equality : the role of public policy
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsWorld Bank -Washington, DC, US
Secondary TitleDevelopment in practice series / World Bank
Paginationxi, 75 p. fig., photogr., tab.
Date Published1995-07-01
PublisherWorld Bank
Place PublishedWashington, DC, USA
ISBN Number0821333372
Keywordseconomic aspects, education, gender, government organizations, health care, policies

Gender equality is a matter not only of social justice but also of good economics. However, although the last twenty years have seen some progress toward reducing gender inequality, much remains to be done. In lowincome countries women are often denied health care and basic education and face limited access to financial services, technology and infrastructure. Women work longer hours for lower pay than most men and hundreds of thousands of women each year are subject to gender related violence. Persistent inequality between women and men constrains a society's productivity, and slows its rate of economic growth. This report, written for the Fourth World Conference on Women, is intended as a reference to strategies for promoting gender equality and consequently, enhancing economic efficiency. It demonstrates the need for government action to improve the economic status of women and points out how public policy can support services and infrastructure most heavily used by women, believing that by advancing gender equality, governments can greatly enhance the future wellbeing and prosperity of their people.
Three messages echo through this document, namely, that intrahousehold allocation of resources is influenced by market signals and institutional norms that do not capture the full benefits to society of investing in women, that public policies should compensate for market failures in the area of gender equality and redirect resources toward investments with the highest social returns such as female education, and that public policies cannot be effective without the participation of women.
The reasons why gender disparities persist are complex, having to do with social and institutional norms, relationships within households, and even lack of information about the benefits of educating and employing women. There is proof that a higher share of household resources is allocated to education, health and food expenditure for boys in comparison with girls. However, information from around the world shows that social returns to investments in women's education and health are significantly greater than for similar investments in men, largely because of the strong correlation between women's education, health, nutritional status and fertility levels, and the education, health, and productivity of future generations. However, since women earn 3040 percent less than men, a vicious circle ensues as households invest less in daughters than in sons believing that investment in girls yields fewer benefits. Investing in women's education and health expands their choices in labour markets and other incomegenerating activities and increases the rate of return on a household's most valuable asset its labour. Women's entry into the labour market, constrained by inequalities in the household division of labour, can be addressed by such public policy interventions as improved water and sanitation services and rural electrification, which reduce the time women spend doing unpaid work. Institutional norms within the labour market such as providing less training to women workers, as well as lack of access to financial services, particularly credit; to land; and to information and technology compound the unequal treatment of women.
Since the benefits from investing in girls and women are great, and since households and employers underinvest in women, governments must take the lead. Public policy can contribute by: modifying laws and regulations to ensure equal opportunities; ensuring macro-economics stability and focusing on labourdemanding growth; reorienting public spending toward investments with the highest social returns such as education, health care and water supply; and adopting targeted interventions that correct for gender inequalities at the micro-level. By directing public resources toward policies and projects that reduce gender inequality, policy makers not only promote equality but also lay the groundwork for slower population growth, greater labour productivity, a higher rate of human capital formation, and stronger growth. However, it is essential for governments and collaborating institutions to encourage the participation of individual women and women's groups in identifying and implementing policies that promote gender equality and therefore foster the future wellbeing and economic development of their people.

NotesBibliography: p. 70-75
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