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WB: Bangladesh can further prosper with more, better jobs for women

  • Published at 05:22 am April 29th, 2019
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The female labour force participation rate increased to 36% from 26% between 2003-2016 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The report states that six out of every 10 girls get married before they turn 18

Bangladesh can further prosper by ensuring new and better jobs for women, according to a World Bank report released on Sunday.

According to the report, titled "Voices to Choices: Bangladesh's Journey in Women's Economic Empowerment," Bangladesh is among the few countries in South Asia that has increased female employment in the last decade; while also cutting the wage gap between men and women significantly.

Bangladesh should keep this momentum going to create more gender equality, the report added.

While acknowledging Bangladesh's achievements, the report also notes that women still have limited choices, control, and decision-making power—over their employment, finances, and economic assets—even though the female labour force participation rate increased to 36% from 26% between 2003-2016.

The report also stated that women's participation in the Bangladeshi workforce is less than half of that of men, and the country could become more prosperous, more rapidly, if more women were to get higher-quality and higher-paid jobs.

More than a third of women in the labour force are unpaid family helpers.

Addressing the proceedings, Acting World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Robert Saum said: "Bangladesh has made great strides towards making men and women equal in many areas, particularly in health and education. 

"However, women need more economic empowerment."

"Bangladesh's female labour force participation is lower than that of Nepal (80%) and Vietnam (77%); and lifting social and economic barriers will help Bangladesh unlock a significant part of the country's productivity."

The report also finds gender gaps in asset control, financial inclusion, and entrepreneurship. 

In rural areas, for example, women own land at much lower rates than men.

The report found that agricultural land ownership by men is about six times higher than ownership by women; and non-agricultural land ownership by men is about 12 times higher than it is for women.

"Today, more rural women are claiming their inheritance, and compared to a decade ago, brothers are more supportive of sisters claiming inheritance," said the World Bank adding that still, a large majority of rural women give up their rights to inherited land.

Women in Bangladesh also have fewer choices than men in where they save and borrow money.

According to the report, working and non-working women across urban and rural areas agreed that working women have to hand over most of their earnings to their husbands or families.

Only 36% of women have bank accounts—compared to 65% of men—and most do not control financial assets. 

Good practices on how to improve women's use and control of financial assets include gender-sensitive banking institutions, female-owned bank accounts, and providing financial literacy training.

Although the rate of female entrepreneurship has been growing, women-led businesses continue to be small and concentrated in specific sectors: only 1.7% of enterprises in the formal sector are owned by women, which is among the lowest rates of women's enterprise ownership in the world.

Stronger enforcement of the existing laws and policies to ensure that women own land and have access to financial products and business opportunities will help reduce social barriers.

Additionally, barriers such as a high rate of marriage among girls under 18 hold women back from achieving their potential, as marriage is the most common reason why girls drop out of school.

Despite the reduction in child marriage over the last decade, about six out of every 10 girls still get married before they turn 18.

World Bank Senior Social Development Specialist and the report's lead author Jennifer Solotaroff said: "Women often face discrimination in the job search, hiring, and promotion processes; in entering high-skill and management jobs; and in accessing credit and starting businesses. 

"Women of ethnic minorities face even harsher discrimination."

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