Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Four million missing women each year in developing countries

The latest World Development Report 2012 (Gender Equality and Development) argues that “countries that create better opportunities for women and girls can raise productivity, improve outcomes for children and make institutions more representative, and advance development prospects for all.”

  • Excess female mortality after birth and “missing” girls at birth account for an estimated 3.9 million women each year in low- and middle-income countries.
  • About two-fifths are never born due to preference for sons, a sixth die in early childhood, and over a third die in their reproductive years.
  • Ensuring equal access and treatment for women farmers would increase maize yields by 11 to 16 percent in Malawi and by 17 percent in Ghana.
  • Improving women’s property rights in Burkina Faso would increase total household agricultural production by about 6 percent, with no additional resources—simply by reallocating resources such as fertilizer and labor from
    men to women.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that equal access to resources for female 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.
  • 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
  • Women in low-income countries not only outlive (life expectancy) men but live 20 years longer than they did in 1960.
  • Gaps in labor force participation have narrowed with over half a billion women having joined the workforce in the last 30 years. 

The report calls for action in four areas:

  • Addressing human capital issues, such as excess deaths of girls and women and gender gaps in education where these persist
  • Closing earning and productivity gaps between women and men
  • Giving women greater voice within households and societies
  • Limiting the perpetuation of gender inequality across generation

In South Asia:

  • Missing girls at birth in South Asia —excluding India— was 1,000 in 2008.
  • But, missing girls at birth increased in 2008 in India to 257,000.
  • The abuse of new technologies for sex-selective abortions, such as cheap mobile ultrasound clinics, accounted for much this shortfall, despite laws against such practices in many nations.
  • In countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, discrimination by parents toward girls is still a serious problem.
  • Bangladesh and India have maternal mortality ratios comparable to Sweden’s around 1990, and Afghanistan’s similar to Sweden’s in the 17th century.
  • Maternal mortality ration was 280 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008.
  • In 2008, there were about 95 girls for every 100 boys in primary school in the region.