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Please click here to access the key findings of the World Development Report 2012-Gender Equality and Development, which has been brought out by the World Bank, 

• Women now represent 40 percent of the global labor force, 43 percent of the world’s agricultural labor force, and more than half the world’s university students. Productivity will be raised if their skills and talents are used more fully. Eliminating barriers that discriminate against women working in certain sectors or occupations could increase labor productivity by as much as 25 percent in some countries.

• Between 1980 and 2008, the gender gap in labor force participation narrowed from 32 percentage points to 26 percentage points.

• Female labor force participation is lowest in the Middle East and Northern Africa (26 percent) and South Asia (35 percent) and highest in East Asia and the Pacific (64 percent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (61 percent).

• The share of women parliamentarians increased only from 10 percent to 17 percent between 1995 and 2009.

• In India, giving power to women at the local level (through political quotas) led to increases in the provision of public goods (both female-preferred ones such as water and sanitation and male-preferred goods such as irrigation and schools) and reduced corruption. Bribes paid by men and women in villages with a female leader were 2.7 to 3.2 percentage points less than in villages with a male leader.

• In India and Nepal, giving women a bigger say in managing forests significantly improved conservation outcomes.

• The financial constraints that poor women face in accessing maternal health services need special attention. One way to help is to provide poor women with cash transfers conditional on their seeking maternal care. An example is India’s Janani Suraksha Yojana, where such transfers increased the uptake of assisted deliveries in the presence of a skilled attendant by around 36 percent.

• In India, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Mobile Creches is experimenting with different models for providing child-care services for women employed in the rural informal sector and on public works programs. Similar efforts have been undertaken in the Indian state of Gujarat by the Self Employed Women’s Association, which has set up day-care centers for the 0–6-year-old children of its members.

• Together with Pradan, Mobile Creches built a group of centers in remote rural areas in the states of Jharkhand and Bihar following discussions with local women about the child-care constraints they faced in accessing income-generating activities (specifically, yarn production) in their communities. These centers follow a community-based model, relying on employers as well as the broader community for their management, contribution of food materials, and training and selection of teachers.

• The Agricultural Technology Management Agency in India targeted women in Orissa to set up self help groups in conjunction with community organizations to provide agricultural extension. These groups led women to diversify their agricultural income sources.

• The Deccan Development Society in India has been organizing groups of women to lease or purchase tracts of land to increase women’s access to land markets.

• In India, a woman’s higher earned income increases her children’s years of schooling.

• In India, despite stellar economic growth in recent years, maternal mortality is almost six times the rate in Sri Lanka.

• A fifth of married women in India are not involved in spending decisions, even about their own incomes.

• In India, owning property substantially enhances women’s voice in the household on various matters and reduces her risk of domestic violence.

• In India, a program run by an NGO, the Foundation of Occupational Development, organized groups of women to focus on marketing, provided them with access to cell phones and the Internet, thus helping them market their products directly and increase their profit margins.

• The rise of outsourcing in India offers new opportunities for women in the wage sector and increases parental investments in girls’ education. Recruitment services that informed families about new employment opportunities for Indian women increased the chances of girls ages 5–15 years to be in school by 3 to 5 percentage points but had no effect on boys. The girls also had higher body mass index (a measure of health) and were 10 percent more likely to be employed in wage work. Perceived improvements in the likelihood of a job triggered investments in human capital for girls even when there were no changes in other potential limiting factors, such as poverty, cost, or distance to school. Evidence of greater returns was enough to stimulate greater human capital accumulation.

• ICT-related jobs were concentrated in software, call centers, and geographical information systems, and clustered in Malaysia and India, particularly in Delhi and Mumbai, where call centers employ more than 1 million people, most of them women.

• 41 percent of women interviewed in Bolivia, the Arab Republic of Egypt, India, and Kenya declared that owning a mobile phone had increased their income and their access to economic opportunities. The impacts were significantly higher among female entrepreneurs: female business owners reported that they were 2.5 times more likely than nonbusiness owners to use their mobile phone to earn income, and they were significantly more interested than other women in receiving services such as notifications of money transfers on their phones (63 percent versus 41 percent).

• Thirty-four percent of women in rural Bolivia, Egypt, India, and Kenya reallocated resources away from other items to pay for a phone subscription, compared with 20 percent among all women surveyed and 12 percent among women who do paid work.

• In India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, subcontracted workers suffered from precarious job security, an almost total absence of benefits, and a general impossibility to organize and fight for their rights. Yet in many cases, subcontracted work was the only possible paid employment that women could take that meshed with family responsibilities or social norms.

• In India, the decline in women’s share of industrial employment (from 21.3 percent in 1989–90 to 17.5 percent in 1994–95) despite high export growth was associated with an increase in subcontracting to home-based workers or small manufacturers that work on a piece-rate basis.

• Experience from India and Mexico shows that equalizing provisions of inheritance laws between women and men increases asset ownership by women.

• Reforms to inheritance laws in India resulted in delays in marriage for girls, more education (increasing the number of years of schooling by an average of 11–25 percent), and lower dowry payments

• Changes in inheritance laws that gave equal rights to daughters in some South Indian states increased the likelihood that women inherited land.

• In Kerala, India, women’s independent ownership of immovable property is a significant predictor of long-term physical and psychological domestic violence, over and above the effects of other factors. The odds of being beaten if a woman owns both a house and land are a twentieth of those when she owns neither. In short, women’s property ownership is associated with significantly lower levels of domestic violence.

• In India, a constitutional amendment to set aside 33 percent of parliamentary seats for women has been under discussion since 1996. Supported by many women’s groups, it has failed to pass.

• The Indian state of Tamil Nadu introduced 188 all-women police units to cover both rural and urban areas and to focus on crimes against women. These units increased women’s comfort in approaching the police, including making reports of domestic abuse.

• In 11 of 13 countries with data—including India, Romania, Sierra Leone, Sweden, and the United States—women make up less than 20 percent of the police force

• A survey reveals that almost all police officers interviewed in India agreed that a husband is allowed to rape his wife, half the judges felt that women who were abused by their spouses were partly to blame for their situation, and 68 percent of them said provocative attire was an invitation to rape.

• In India, the ability of women to use their earnings to influence household decisions depends on their social background, with women with weaker links to their ancestral communities more able to challenge social norms and reap the benefits of autonomous incomes. About 20 percent of the participants in the WDR 2012 study said that husbands have complete control over their wives’ autonomous earnings (the share was a little more pronounced in rural areas).

• Men who experience economic stress were more likely to use violence against their intimate partners than those who did not in regions of Brazil, Chile, Croatia, and India. They were also more likely to suffer from depression, and in India, men who experience economic stress are two and a half times more likely than their peers to regularly abuse alcohol, which presents a health risk for them as well as a risk factor for domestic violence.

• In India, villagers who had never had a female leader preferred male leaders and perceived hypothetical female leaders to be less effective than their male counterparts, even when stated performance was identical. Exposure to a female leader did not alter villagers’ preference for male leaders, but it did weaken stereotypes about gender roles in the public and domestic spheres, and it eliminated the negative perception among male villagers about female leaders’ effectiveness.

• A study of political reservation for women in India showed that teenage girls who have repeated exposure to women leaders are more likely to express aspirations that challenge traditional norms, such as a desire to marry later, have fewer children, and obtain jobs requiring higher education.

• In rural India, cable television affected gender attitudes, resulting in decreased fertility (primarily through increased birth spacing) and bringing gender attitudes in rural areas much closer to those in urban areas. Women with access to cable were less likely than others to express a son preference or to report that it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife.

• In India, daughters-in-law face a higher work burden than daughters.

• In India, among those with access to microcredit, women with an existing business increased their consumption of durable goods; women with a high probability of becoming business owners did the same, and at the same time reduced their nondurable consumption, which is consistent with the need to pay fixed costs to enter entrepreneurship.

• In India, the absence of land titles significantly limits women farmers’ access to institutional credit.

• In Karnataka, India, 29 percent of land-holding male-headed households received an extension visit, while 18 percent of female-headed households did. For livestock extension, by contrast, 79 percent of female-headed households had contact with an extension agent, against 72 percent for male-headed households

• Evidence from Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ghana, India, Malawi, South Africa, and Uganda also suggests that young women’s friendship networks are less robust than those of their male peers.

• Increased economic opportunities for young girls can also change their own and their communities’ perceptions of gender roles for adolescent girls. A study of a program in Delhi that linked communities to recruiters for high-paying telephone work found that these communities were more likely to have lower expectations of dowry and to find it acceptable for women to live alone before marriage and to work before and after marriage or childbirth

• Women workers in the informal sector have challenged their employers and sometimes the state through such organizations as the Self Employed Women’s Association in India and Nijera Kori in Bangladesh. These groups have provided voice for women and created space for public action to counter the resistance to reform.

• The expansion of economic opportunities for women in service industries in Bangladesh and India has boosted school enrollments for girls, which feeds into higher labor force participation and better educational outcomes for the next generation.

• North Indian states are a notable exception; women have grown taller at a much slower rate than men, and girls’ anthropometric outcomes remain worse than boys—both in levels and in changes over time.

• In India, fertility was high and stable through 1960 and then sharply declined from 6 births per woman to 2.3 by 2009.

• In India, the median boy and girl ages 15–19 in the wealthiest fifth of the population reach grade 10, but the median boy in the bottom fifth reaches only grade 6, and the median girl only grade 1. Across countries there is little gender disadvantage for the wealthiest: households in the top income quintile tend to achieve full gender parity in education.

• Since 1990, both India and Equatorial Guinea had declines of 41 percent in their maternal mortality ratios, which fell to similar levels in 2008, but the two countries had radically different growth trajectories—a mere 3 percent a year in Equatorial Guinea compared with a solid 8 percent in India.

• Improvements in women’s education and health have been linked to better outcomes for their children in countries as varied as Brazil, Nepal, Pakistan, and Senegal.

• Skewed sex ratios at birth is a problem in a few parts of the world, including China, parts of India, and parts of the Caucasus and the Western Balkans. The underlying cause is son preference among households, which has been exacerbated in some of these places by rapid income growth. Higher incomes have increased access to ultrasound technologies that assist in sex selection at birth.

• Overall, missing girls at birth and excess female mortality under age 60 totaled an estimated 3.9 million women in 2008—85 percent of them were in China, India, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

• Missing girls at birth reflect overt discrimination in the household, resulting from the combination of strong preferences for sons combined with declining fertility and the spread of technologies that allow parents to know the sex before birth. This is a particular issue in China and North India (although now spreading to other parts of India), but it is also visible in parts of the Caucasus and the Western Balkans.

• In 2008 alone, an estimated 1 million girls in China and 250,000 girls in India were missing at birth. The abuse of new technologies for sex-selective abortions—such as cheap mobile ultrasound clinics—accounted for much of this shortfall, despite laws against such practices in many nations, such as India and China. Economic prosperity will continue to increase amniocentesis and ultrasound services throughout the developing world, possibly enabling the diffusion of sex-selective abortions where son-preferences exist.

• More than 1.3 million girls are not born in China and India every year because of overt discrimination and the spread of ultrasound technologies that allow households to determine the sex of the fetus before birth. Informal institutions that generate a preference for sons are the primary bottleneck.

• The three population groupings—China (with a population of 1.3 billion), India (1.15 billion), and Sub-Saharan Africa (0.8 billion)—together account for 87 percent of the world’s missing girls and excess female mortality.

• The higher mortality rates for girls and women in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami have been related to their more limited mobility caused by restrictive clothing and caring for small children.

• Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Indonesia have maternal mortality ratios comparable to Sweden’s around 1900, and Afghanistan’s is similar to Sweden’s in the 17th century.

• In 2008, there were 63,000 maternal deaths in India and 203,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa (56.7 percent of the global total), in stark contrast to rich countries, with only 1,900 maternal deaths.

• As was discovered in Bangladesh in the early 1970s and India in the 1980s, girls are less likely to be vaccinated, less likely to be given medical care, and less likely to receive nutrition at home.

• Research: Of all papers published in the top 202 economics journals between 1985 and 2004, 149 papers were on Pakistan and 1,093 on India—but there were no papers on the Central African Republic, 1 on Chad, 14 on Benin, 2 on Guinea Bissau, and 20 on Niger. Only for Burkina Faso (47) and Nigeria (148) do the numbers start picking up.

• Gender gaps in primary education have closed in almost all countries. In secondary education, these gaps are closing rapidly and have reversed in many countries, especially in Latin America, the Caribbean, and East Asia—but it is now boys and young men who are disadvantaged. Among developing countries, girls now outnumber boys in secondary schools in 45 countries and there are more young women than men in universities in 60 countries.

• Two-thirds of all countries have reached gender parity in primary education enrollments, while in over one-third, girls significantly outnumber boys in secondary education.

• Since 1980, women are living longer than men in all parts of the world. And, in low-income countries, women now live 20 years longer on average than they did in 1960.

• Female life expectancy increased dramatically in developing countries (by 20 to 25 years in most regions in the past 50 years) to reach 71 years globally in 2007 (compared with 67 for men), and women now outlive men in every region of the world.

• Over half a billion women have joined the world’s labor force over the last 30 years as women’s participation in paid work has risen in most of the developing world.

• Females are more likely to die, relative to males, in many low- and middle-income countries than their counterparts in rich countries. These deaths are estimated at about 3.9 million women and girls under the age of 60 each year. About two-fifths of them are never born, one-sixth die in early childhood, and over one-third die in their reproductive years.

• Despite the overall progress, primary and secondary school enrollments for girls remain much lower than for boys for disadvantaged populations in many Sub-Saharan countries and some parts of South Asia.

• The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that equalizing access to productive resources between female and male 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.

• It took more than 100 years for the number of children born to a woman in the United States to decline from 6 to 3; the same decline took just over 35 years in India and less than 20 in Iran.

• Globally, excess female mortality after birth and “missing” girls at birth account every year for an estimated 3.9 million women below the age of 60. About two-fifths of them are never born, one-fifth goes missing in infancy and childhood, and the remaining two-fifths do so between the ages of 15 and 59

• The Young Lives study looked at educational aspirations and noncognitive skills of boys and girls at ages 8, 12, and 15 for 12,000 children in Ethiopia, Andhra Pradesh in India, Peru, and Vietnam. Parental aspirations for the education of their children were biased toward boys in Ethiopia and India by the age of 12 and toward girls in Peru and Vietnam. By the age of 15, these biases had been transmitted to children, with clearly higher educational aspirations among boys in Ethiopia and India, and among girls in Vietnam. And by age 15, measures of agency or efficacy showed a strong pro-male bias in India and Ethiopia but not in Peru and Vietnam.

• Only 27 percent of children ages 10 and 11 in India can read a simple passage, do a simple division problem, tell the time, and handle money. This low learning is not an Indian problem; it recurs in nearly all low- and middle-income countries. This low learning is not an Indian problem; it recurs in nearly all low- and middle-income countries. For the developing countries as a whole, 21.3 percent of 15-year-old children tested by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) could not achieve level 1 proficiency in mathematics—the most basic skills.

Rural Expert

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