Child Marriage: A Persistent Hurdle to Health and Prosperity

Yesterday, on October 11, the world marked the International Day of the Girl Child. While the day is an opportunity to advocate for girls’ rights across many sectors, one persistent, pernicious issue deserves renewed attention:  the high prevalence of child marriage. This is an issue of importance for governments, but also for NGOs, including service club organizations such as Rotary that are investing substantially in education and health.

Child marriage

Every year, 15 million girls marry before the age of 18. Child marriage is associated with higher health risks for these girls and their children. It also contributes to high population growth, thereby threatening access of households to the often scarce resources they need to thrive, and putting pressures on government budgets to deliver quality services.

The elimination of child, early and forced marriage is now part of the Sustainable Development Goals under Target 5 – achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. This is good news. But for governments, NGOs, and communities to take the challenge of the elimination of child marriage seriously, more evidence is needed on the negative impacts of child marriage, as well as what works to eliminate the practice.

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the World Bank are collaborating in an innovative, three-year research project to do just that. The project involves the most extensive data analysis – and for three countries, new data collection – undertaken so far to better understand and measure the economic costs of child marriage. Funding for the project is provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

A brief on selected preliminary results from the analysis was shared at a side event at the United Nations General Assembly last month. It suggests that child marriage has large negative effects on population, health, and nutrition.

Fertility and Population Growth

The number of children a woman has over her lifetime has significant impacts on her health, her ability to engage in activities outside of the household, and the poverty level of her household. Analysis of Demographic and Health Surveys for a half dozen countries suggests large impacts of child marriage on the number of live births for a woman over her lifetime. In Nigeria, for example, girls who married at age 12 have a number of births higher by 30% on average than women who married after the age of 18. Even marrying at age 17, rather than 18, increases the number of births by 18%.

On average, women marrying as children have 1.4 more children over their lifetime than if they marry after the age of 18. In some countries such as Egypt, the impact is smaller, but in other countries such as Ethiopia, it is larger.

Because girls who marry early have a higher number of births over their lifetime, child marriage contributes to higher population growth. Estimates suggest that in countries with a high incidence of child marriage, such as Niger, annual rates of population growth could be reduced substantially each year if child marriage were eliminated, and there were no increases in births outside of marriage by adolescent girls. The implications of these changes at the aggregate level for both government and private expenditures would be significant, placing less demand on often over-stretched services and infrastructure, as well as government and private budgets, and generating a potentially large “demographic dividend.”

Under-Five Mortality and Malnutrition

Child marriage increases the risk of maternal and under-five mortality and morbidity, leading to significant social and economic impacts from the individual level  to the national level. Analysis of Demographic and Health Surveys suggests that the risk of death before age five for children increases substantially when the child is born to a mother below 18 years of age, as compared to a child with similar characteristics born to an older mother. Delaying marriage therefore would help reduce infant and child mortality.

Children born to child brides also have a higher risk of malnutrition than children born to older mothers — a significant barrier to the health of the child, their educational prospects, and, in the longer term, their contribution to household and national economies through their labor. Analysis based on Demographic and Health Surveys suggests that children born from child brides have higher risks of stunting than children born from mothers older than 18, with additional risks resulting from a higher likelihood of low birthweight. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, the effect is estimated at seven percentage points. At the aggregate level, this could have significant effects for countries seeking to enhance the human capacity and health of their population.

Multiple Impacts

It is often said that the process of development is multidimensional, with vulnerabilities in some areas affecting other areas. Child marriage is a perfect example of this, since it affects so many areas in the lives of the girls who marry early, their children, and their communities. This is true for health, nutrition, and population, but also for education, labor force participation and earnings, decision-making ability within the household, and even the risk of gender-based violence. As a result, the economic impacts and associated costs of child marriage are large and far-reaching.

Results from joint ICRW-World Bank research on this issue will be updated on the project website as they become available. A launch event for sharing the main results from the first phase of the research is planned for the second half of November 2015 at the World Bank.

This post is reproduced with minor changes from a post by the author on the World Bank’s Investing in Health blog available at http://blogs.worldbank.org/health/.

Out-of-school Children: A Promise Yet To Be Fulfilled

by Sheena Bell, Friedrich Huebler, and Quentin Wodon

Today, as the Millennium Development Goals draw to a close and the development community is thinking of new development targets, many children are not learning in school. But, in addition, more than 120 million children and young adolescents still remain out of school. That is almost one in ten children of primary school age, and one in seven children of lower secondary school age. For these children, the right to education remains a distant dream.

Perhaps, most alarmingly, data show a steady downturn in the momentum to reach these children. Between 2000 and 2007, substantial gains were made towards universal basic education as tuition fees were abolished, schools were built, and teachers were hired. In absolute numbers, much of the progress achieved in reducing the number of children excluded from school was driven by a small number of countries. In India alone, the number of out-of-school children fell by 16 million between 2000 and 2011, the latest year with available data. Another set of ten countries – Algeria, Burundi, Ghana, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Yemen and Zambia – were also key contributors. Together, these 11 countries account for more than one-half of the reduction in the global number of out-of-school children since 2000.

But, today, 58 million children between the ages of about 6 and 11 years remain out of school and an additional 63 million adolescents (roughly between the ages of 12 and 15 years) are not enrolled. Since 2007, progress in reducing the global numbers has stopped. As shown in the figure below, the rate of out-of-school children has also remained virtually the same since 2007. Girls, children in poverty, and those living in rural or remote areas are the most affected.

Global out-of-school rate for children of primary & lower secondary school age, 2000-12
Global out-of-school rate for children of primary & lower secondary school age, 2000-12

The latest statistics on out-of-school children are available in a report published in January 2015 by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and UNICEF. While presenting a range of indicators to better identify these children, the report also identifies several barriers to their education. To begin with, one-half of the children out of school live in conflict-affected countries. Gender discrimination continues to be a major factor to the detriment of girls in many countries (although in some countries, especially in the Caribbean, boys lag behind girls). Child labor is also identified as a major problem, while the language of school instruction can be a barrier in many countries, especially for indigenous populations. Children with disabilities continue to be excluded in education systems ill-fitted to meet their needs. All of these factors are exacerbated by poverty. In many countries, low-income households cannot afford the direct costs of sending their children to school (e.g. fees, uniforms or books) or the indirect costs resulting from the lost wages or household contributions of their sons and daughters.

The report is complemented by an innovative data exploration tool that goes beyond the absolute numbers to highlight the critical factors that drive exclusion. In particular, it shows the extent to which factors like gender, location (rural versus urban) and poverty can affect a child’s likelihood to start school late, drop out or even set foot in a classroom. Developed by the UIS, the data tool clearly identifies priorities for any effective policies or interventions to reach these children.

The UIS-UNICEF report provides the most updated information available on out-of-school children globally. It advocates for a combination of supply- and demand-side interventions as well as system-wide policy reforms to help ensure that all children are indeed in school, and calls for a stronger commitment from governments and donors to keep the promise of education for all.

Note: this post was first published on February 23, 2015 on the World Bank Education for Global Development blog.

 

 

Who Works the Most? Rural Women Do!

by Quentin Wodon

International days are often an occasion to provide analysis and commentary about service projects and development issues on this blog. Before the blog was launched on World Polio Day, the annual International Day of Rural Women was celebrated on October 15. The original impetus for this International Day was to recognize rural women’s role in enhancing agricultural and rural development worldwide. Rural women are essential for food security, which is why the day is held one day before World Food Day. Rural women clearly deserve recognition: in many countries, they are the ones who work the most in the household!

Women and girls carry charcoal in Uganda (Photo: C. Tsimpo)
Women and girls carry charcoal in Uganda (Photo: C. Tsimpo)

Comparative analysis of the work patterns of men and women in urban and rural areas is typically done with time use data (see this book from a few years ago on gender and time poverty in Africa). In virtually all countries, women work longer hours than men, especially in rural areas.

With Clarence Tsimpo I recently conducted a similar analysis with the latest Uganda National Household Survey for 2012/13. The survey is nationally representative and it includes an interesting module on time use. Information is available for all individuals in the sampled households on their time use allocations along five core activities: market activities (for example working for a wage), collecting firewood, fetching water, cooking, and children and elderly care. To the extent that other types of work or domestic chores are not included, the weekly workload of individuals could be underestimated with those data, but on the other hand one could argue that other activities are often performed as secondary activities in combination with primary activities.

So, how hard does Uganda’s population work? Nationally, the mean working time is 47.7 hours for the adult population aged between 15 and 60. This total includes an average of 32.7 hours in market work, 2.1 hours for collecting firewood, 3.4 hours for fetching water, 7.6 hours for cooking, and 6.8 hours for children and elderly care.

However, women work on average 55.2 hours per week, well above the average of 39.3 hours for men. Men do spend more time on market work, but women do most of the domestic chores and this leads them to work longer hours overall. For some women, the workload is much higher than those averages. In rural areas, 19.2 percent of women work more than 69 hours per week, and 8.8 percent work more than 92 hours per week. For men, the proportions are lower at 9.0 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.

Women work on average longer than men because they are involved, as men are, in farm and often other labor market work. But what differentiates women from men in terms of their total working time is the fact that the responsibility to fetch firewood and water as well as to cook and take care of domestic chores typically falls on women and their children, often from a young age.

The time needed for such chores can be consequential in low income countries. In the case of water for example, in Uganda only a very small minority of households (7%) has access to piped water in their house or yard. Under usual definitions from the World Health Organization’s Joint Monitoring Programme three in fourth households in Uganda have in principle access to an improved water source. However these sources are sometimes located far away from household’s dwellings, so that the time needed to fetch water may be substantial.

The fact that for some households, substantial time is needed to fetch water means that time may be lacking to make water safe by boiling it. As a respondent in a focus group explained it: “It’s the woman who suffers with water and that’s why we don’t expect her to travel for a long distance looking for water and boiling it as well since she has other domestic chores awaiting for her.” Not boiling water may have severe health consequences.

In addition to walking time to water sources, waiting time is also common. This is illustrated by the following comments: “They are few public taps available and, there is a lot of congestion, making it hard to access water without waiting for a period of one to two hours”; “At the shallow well, in the dry season the water is very little and after pumping five jerry cans one needs to wait for another 30 minutes”. In areas where water is scarce, congestion may lead to chaos and even fighting at water sources. Instances of abuse of children and wives have been reported, especially when wives take too much time to fetch water according to their husbands.

What can be done to reduce the workload of women and shift some of their time from domestic chores to market work, thereby enabling women to earn additional income and help households emerge from poverty? As I already mentioned it on this blog (see the 3-part series on infrastructure and poverty: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), better coverage of basic infrastructure services is one of the keys. In Uganda, a connection to the grid or piped water network could enable women to decrease their domestic working time and correspondingly increase their market working time by about two hours per week. The additional earnings that could be generated through this shift could reduce the share of the population in poverty by about one percentage point for each of the two basic infrastructure services.

While this would not by itself eradicate poverty in the country, it would help beneficiary households, and especially rural women, fairly substantially. But whether women work on domestic chores or market work, Uganda’s population can count on them to help carry the day.

Ending Violence against Women

by Quentin Wodon

Today, November 25, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. According to the United Nations, more than a third of women and girls worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. In some countries the proportion is at two thirds. More than 130 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. Child marriage is even more pervasive, with 700 million women living today who married as children. In Africa and South Asia, close to half of girls still marry before the age of 18. These practices are declining, but only slowly.

The widespread negative effects of violence against women have been documented, including in the recent World Bank report Voice and Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth lead 70,000 adolescent girls to die each year according to UNFPA’s State of the World Population report.

The consequences of child marriage, early pregnancy, and violence against women also affect future generations, including the children of girls who marry early and thereby have to curtail their own education. Lower education attainment for mothers has a wide range of potential negative effects for their children. These and other effects are documented not only in the World Bank report just mentioned, but also in other studies, including a study by UNFPA on child marriage.

The good news is that a clear and stronger consensus is emerging to eliminate those practices. On Friday November 21, the human rights committee of the 193-nation General Assembly adopted by consensus (without needing a vote) a resolution urging all states to take the necessary steps to end child, early and forced marriage. Such steps include adopting and enforcing laws banning child marriage, but they should also include providing support and incentives to eliminate the practice.

A total of 118 countries sponsored the resolution, including some of the countries with the highest incidence of child marriage (such as Mali, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic). The resolution will be presented to the full General Assembly for formal adoption in December. While such resolutions are not legally binding, they help in increasing pressure on governments to take concrete measures to eliminate the practice.

Earlier this year, the U.K. government and UNICEF jointly hosted the first Girl Summit in July to mobilize efforts to end child, early, and forced marriage as well as female genital mutilation. At the summit a new three year $4.2 million research effort was announced to better estimate the economist cost of child marriage. Funding is provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. The research effort is being led jointly by the International Centre for Research on Women and the World Bank’s Education Global Practice.

The objective of this research effort is to generate new global, regional and country evidence on the impact of child marriage and especially its associated economic costs. The first phase of the research effort will document the various pathways through which child marriage affects girls, their children and families, their communities, and societies at large. Existing household surveys will be used to measure the impact of child marriage on a range of outcomes and the costs associated with those impacts. In the second phase that will start in July 2015, in-depth data collection and analysis will be carried in three countries to validate the models developed in the first phase. The third phase will start in July 2016 and focus on capacity building and advocacy.

The hope is that this research will inform policymakers not only about the (potentially large) cost of child marriage, but also about the types of interventions that could help eliminate the practice.

Note: This post is reproduced with minor modifications from a post by the author published today on the World Bank’s Let’s Talk Development blog at https://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/

 

Infrastructure and Poverty: Part 3 – What Can Be Done?

by Quentin Wodon

Infrastructure matters for poverty and development (first post in this series), but the needs of the poor are not being met (second post). In this third post, the discussion shifts to what can be done to improve infrastructure services for the poor, considering first reforms and subsidies, and next projects including those by service organizations.

Water fountain (Photo: C. Tsimpo)
Water fountain (Photo: C. Tsimpo)

Reforms and Subsidies

PPIs (private participation in infrastructure) and IRAs (independent regulatory agencies) have been among the most important reforms implemented in the past two decades. The empirical evidence reviewed in my   book with Antonio Estache suggests that these reforms have improved investment and service quality (as well as reduced corruption in the case of IRAs), but there are differences in these impacts between sectors and the effects have been relatively modest. In addition, while these reforms have helped some households, they probably have helped mostly households among better off groups since the poor simply have no access to basic infrastructure countries in low income countries.

Another area of concern is that of subsidies. Many countries have (often large) consumption subsidies for basic infrastructure services such as electricity and piped water. These subsidies prevent cost recovery by the utilities and this reduces the incentives for them to expand the networks. But in addition, while the subsidies are justified in theory by the aim to make services affordable to the poor, they are in practice very poorly targeted to the poor. In most countries the average subsidy received by a poor person is only a third (or less) of the average subsidy received by a person randomly chosen in the population as a whole.

Most existing subsidies are consumption subsidies implemented through the inverted block tariff (IBTs) structures. With IBTs the unit cost per kWh or cubic meter of water is lower for the first few blocks of consumption for all those connected to the network, and often below cost recovery levels. In low income countries, these subsidies are poorly targeted to the poor simply because most of the poor are not connected to the networks.

The targeting performance of those subsidies could be improved by reducing the lower bands of the IBTs so that only those who consume very low amounts of water or electricity benefit from the largest subsidies. Another option is to shift to Volume Differentiated Tariffs, whereby only those consuming in a tariff band receive the subsidy for that bans (under IBTs, all clients receive the subsidies in the lower bands for the part of their consumption in those bands). Both approaches tend to have a limited positive impact on targeting performance, but they help in reducing the cost of the subsidies.

Another alternative is to shift from consumption to connection subsidies. Instead of subsidizing the consumption of those already connected to the water network or the electricity grid, the idea is to subsidize the connection of new and typically poorer households to the network. Still another alternative is to target subsidies to those in need more purposefully (this can be done among others through geographic targeting or proxy means- testing). In those cases, targeting performance to the poor can under some conditions be improved significantly. These are all high priorities that governments and utilities should implement, as argued for example here.

Projects

What about the role of the nonprofit community, including NGOs and service clubs? Precisely because so many among the poor do not have access to basic infrastructure services, the role of nonprofit organizations is important to fill part of the gap in coverage of basic infrastructure services. It is important however for nonprofits, including service clubs, to operate in a highly professional and sustainable manner.

Providing access to electricity, water, sanitation, or other basic infrastructure services in poor areas is hard. Many projects are implemented in an unsustainable way, so that they ultimately fail. Research I am doing with Clarence Tsimpo on Uganda suggests that many small water projects fail in large part because of lack of infrastructure functionality (facilities stop to work properly, even shortly after being installed) or lack of local responsibility (poor local leadership or lack of proper community arrangements hinder maintenance, thereby yielding a slower but often irreversible damage in the infrastructure).

Sometimes, expensive technologies are put in place that communities have simply no way to keep up because of the high cost of parts for repairs. Training for proper maintenance may not be provided at all, or provided in a haphazard way, to beneficiary communities. These and other factors lead to the failure of many projects despite the best of intentions. So what are NGOs and especially service clubs to do? They need to get professional advice. In the Rotary family, the good news is that advice may be available from Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs). In the case of water and sanitation WASRAG is ready to help.

My Rotary club was recently considering a promising water harvesting and sanitation project in India. We got detailed specifications ready and they looked good.  But we asked for a professional review by a district Rotarian expert in the field. He raised concerns and suggested we contact WASRAG for advice. We did, and in the end we decided to subsume our own small individual project and funds into a much larger project run by WASRAG. This gave us piece of mind that the project would benefit from the professional expertise it needed.

In Rotary, on average (there are of course exceptions), larger projects are likely to be better designed than small ones. They also tend to be better managed because the stakes are higher. This means that they probably  have (again on average) more impact, and are more likely to be sustainable. Larger projects also require less administrative work than multiple smaller ones. Not all Rotary service projects need to be large projects where many clubs and districts pool resources together with professional advise from RAGs. But in some cases, when the expertise of RAGs is available, it is a good idea to work with them and pool resources.

 

Infrastructure and Poverty: Part 2 – Are Household Needs Being Met?

by Quentin Wodon

The first post in this series asked whether infrastructure matters for poverty reduction and other development outcomes. It does. This second post asks whether the infrastructure needs of households are being met. They are not. Part of the analysis relies on my new  book with Antonio Estache on infrastructure and poverty in Africa.

Solar panels in Karamoja, Uganda (Photo: C. Tsimpo)
Solar panels in Karamoja, Uganda (Photo: C. Tsimpo)

Challenges in Low Income Countries

Infrastructure does matter for growth and poverty reduction, but there is probably a difference in that relationship between low and middle or high income countries. In low income countries, there is no guarantee that investments in infrastructure will benefit the poor in a straightforward way, unless the investments are designed from the start to do so.

Consider it this way. The priorities of private investors and households in poverty are likely to differ in low income countries. In the African context especially, the number of the poor is rather large, with many living in rural areas and having no access to basic infrastructure services. Only the better off tend to have access to those services, and even at the margin, new investments in infrastructure may not necessarily benefit the poor, simply because they live too far away from the electricity grid or the piped water network. Incentives for private utilities to reach the poor are limited.

What about the links between infrastructure and employment? There is no doubt that lack of infrastructure is an obstacle for firms to operate. In enterprise surveys, close to half of firms declare that lack of electricity is a constraint for them, and one fourth cites lack of telecom and transportation services. This compares to 40 percent of firms citing corruption as a major obstacle to doing business. These rates are high, suggesting that lack of infrastructure is indeed a major constraint to investments and growth. But at the same time, in low income countries only a small minority of workers is engaged in the formal sector where these firms operate. Even if the firms would do better, this still may not have a direct immediate impact on the poor, apart from trickle down effects.

Another challenge relates to the cost and quality of service provision – such as the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. In part because the networks are small in many countries, operating costs tend to be higher in Africa than in other regions of the world. In some cases high costs result from over-engineering of projects. As for quality, in part due to capacity constraints, service is often provided only intermittently. These and other challenges make it difficult to serve the poor, especially in Africa.

Gains in Coverage?

 Organizations such as NGOs and service clubs are not engaged in large infrastructure projects. But they can play an important role in meeting household demand for basic infrastructure – including for off-grid electricity, water, and sanitation. In the case of Rotary for example, the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (WASRAG) is actively involved in providing access to water and sanitation in local communities. The question of whether household demand for basic services is being met is thus important not only for governments and utilities, but also for nonprofit organizations.

Progress in meeting household demand has unfortunately been very slow, especially in Africa. In telecoms there has been dramatic progress thanks to the mobile cell phone revolution. But in other sectors, with the exception of gains in rural electrification in some countries, coverage rates have not improved much (see this paper). For piped water, coverage rates have remained below 20 percent on average across countries with no clear gain over time. For electricity, there has been an increase in coverage rates from a fourth of households to about a third thanks as just mentioned to gains in rural areas. For flush toilets as for piped water, access has also remained flat with only about one in ten household being served. Even when gains in coverage are being achieved, these tend to benefit mostly better off households.

Cost, Affordability, and Supply

In urban and peri-urban areas small-scale providers are filling some of the gaps left by national or regional utilities, but they often have high costs and substantial margins, and are thus expensive for households. In Niger, a study suggests that the cost of water per liter from street vendors could be up to five times higher than the cost from the piped network.

Is the lack of coverage of infrastructure in the population a demand or supply issue? Lack of affordability of modern infrastructure services is an issue for the poor, and it may reduce the demand for those services. Yet the main constraint is lack of supply, not lack of demand (see this paper). The fact is that it is often more expensive for households to meet infrastructure needs through small scale providers or alternative sources than through the networks. For electricity and lighting, the cost of batteries, candles, or kerosene lamps is often higher, at least per unit of efficient energy, than the cost of an electricity bill.

The problem is not that households do not want to connect to networks. It is that even though households would benefit from a connection to existing networks, the opportunity to do so is often not available. This may be because households live too far from the networks. But it may also be because connection costs requested by utilities are often high, especially for the poor and when the costs have to be paid in a single installment.

This quick diagnostic suggests that a lot of work remains to be done to provide basic infrastructure services to the poor in Africa and many other developing countries. In the third post of this series, the record of the reforms and policies of the past two decades will be discussed, together with their implications for projects by organizations such as Rotary.

Infrastructure and Poverty: Part 1 – Does Infrastructure Matter for Poverty Reduction?

by Quentin Wodon

World Toilet Day will be celebrated in a few days on November 19. Some 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets and latrines. Lack of sanitation has dramatic consequences for health. Several million people, many of them children, die from diarrheal diseases every year. Many of these deaths are attributed to unsafe water, poor sanitation including lack of toilets, and poor hygiene. Access to basic infrastructure services – not only for sanitation, but also electricity, piped water, and transport – remains low in many countries.

Women in Uganda carry water (photo: C. Tsimpo)
Women in Uganda carry water (photo: C. Tsimpo)

This 3-part post series discusses the relationship between infrastructure and poverty. The focus is on Africa (the region discussed in my book with Antonio Estache published this week), but the lessons apply more broadly. I will ask three questions: (1) Does infrastructure matter and is funding sufficient? (2) Are household infrastructure needs being met?; and (3) Have reforms succeeded, and what does it mean for us?

Infrastructure Matters

Infrastructure has long been recognized as essential for growth, and growth in turn is empirically proven to be the best way to reduce poverty in the long run (reducing inequality also helps, but has a much lower impact, especially in very poor countries where there is not much to redistribute). Estimates suggest that the elasticity of GDP to infrastructure is in the 0.4 to 1.5 range. This is large – better infrastructure has a major impact on growth.

Infrastructure also matters for other development outcomes at the individual and household level. As mentioned above, many child deaths could be adverted with access to improved water sources and better sanitation. Infrastructure also helps households shift time from domestic chores to productive work.

This has gender implications. In the developing world women work on average longer hours than men. They are involved, as men are, in farm and labor market work, but in addition they have the responsibility to fetch firewood and water. This responsibility can be time consuming. As a villager from Uganda explains: “They are few public taps available here and there is a lot of congestion, making it hard to access water without waiting for a period of one to two hours”.

In work I am doing with Clarence Tsimpo on Uganda, regression analysis with the latest household survey suggests that in areas where the electricity grid or the piped water network is available, a connection to the grid or piped water network for those households not yet connected could enable women to decrease their domestic working time, and correspondingly increase their market working time by about two hours per week.

The additional earnings that could be generated through this shift could reduce the share of the population in poverty by about one percentage point for each of the two basic infrastructure services. While this would not by itself eradicate poverty in the country, it would help beneficiary households, and especially rural women, fairly substantially.

Infrastructure as a New Priority

Throughout much of the last two decades, funding allocated to infrastructure by governments fell in proportion of available budgets. It has also been said that transport was one of the forgotten MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). Today, the situation has changed and the crucial role of infrastructure is widely recognized. Yet funding remains a challenge.

According to the World Bank, private infrastructure investment in emerging markets and developing economies dropped from US$186 billion in 2012 to $150 billion last year. At its annual meetings last month, the World Bank announced the launch of a new global infrastructure facility. While developing countries invest US$1 trillion per year on infrastructure, this would need to be doubled to maintain current growth rates and meet future demand for infrastructure from firms, households, and regions.

The private sector will play a key role in future infrastructure investments, but governments will need to invest more as well. For this, they will need to rely on both their own tax revenues and the availability of foreign aid. For low income countries, concessional financing (grants or very low interest loans) will remain crucial.

When increasing funding for infrastructure, governments and donors will need to be careful to assess fiscal and institutional capacity – not all countries have the same absorptive and implementation capacity. The worst that could happen would be to have large investments in sub-optimal infrastructure projects. The risk of an increase in debt to unsustainable levels must also be managed. But many countries do have the capacity to absorb more funding for infrastructure.

This is the big picture about the relationship between infrastructure and poverty in Africa and many other parts of the world. The next post in this series will discuss whether household needs are being met, and if not, why not.

Reducing the Gender Gap in Education

by Quentin Wodon

The International Day of the Girl Child earlier this month was an opportunity to remind ourselves that girls are among the primary victims of violence, and that they continue to, in many countries, have limited education and employment opportunities.

There has been substantial progress towards gender equity in basic education, but large gaps remain at the secondary level. In the Figure below from the World Bank’s Global Monitoring Report (GMR) just published, countries are ranked on the horizontal axis according to GDP per capita. Gaps in secondary school completion by gender are displayed on the vertical axis. The sizes of the dots represent the size of the countries’ population. Data are provided for sub-Saharan countries in orange and South Asian countries in blue. On average, a boy remains 1.55 times more likely than a girl to complete secondary school in the countries in the sample. The gaps are larger in poorer countries. But there is also a lot of variation around the regression line, suggesting that it is feasible to reduce gender gaps in attainment even in low income countries.

Ratio of Secondary School Completion Rates by Gender


Source: World Bank Global Monitoring Report.

Multiple reasons may explain why boys and girls drop out before completing secondary school. For example, in a 2012/13 survey for Uganda, parents mentioned the cost of education as the main reason for dropping out for both boys and girls. The fact that a child was not willing to continue his or her education came up next, but for girls an even more important reason for dropping out was pregnancy, often linked to early marriage. A sickness or calamity in the family was also mentioned as a reason for dropping out, as was the fact that some children did not make enough progress in school. When similar questions were asked to head teachers, differences between boys and girls emerged even more clearly. For boys, lack of interest and employment were key reasons for dropping out. For girls, pregnancies and child marriage came up strong, with these in turn likely to be related to poverty and limited employment prospects as well as cultural factors.

Because multiple reasons may contribute to gender gaps in attainment, the types of interventions that could be implemented to reduce these gender gaps are also multiple. Should the distance to schools be reduced, whether this is done by building new schools in remote areas or reducing travel time through public transportation? Should scholarships be provided to girls, as successfully pioneered by Bangladesh several decades ago? Should more female teachers be hired? Should the priority be to make separate toilet blocks available for boys and girls? Should more focus be placed on understanding and changing cultural practices? Choosing between these and many other potential interventions is often difficult and clearly responses depend on country context. But reviews of the evidence can help, and such reviews are now becoming more available thanks to a substantial increase in rigorous impact evaluations in recent years.

One such review was published in June 2014 by a team of academics led by UNESCO and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. The review assessed the evidence on the impact of interventions for girls’ education focusing on (i) providing resources (including transfers) and infrastructure, (ii) changing institutions, and (iii) changing norms and including the most marginalized in education decision making. The review summarized the impact of different types of interventions on three outcomes: participation, learning, and empowerment. For each type of intervention and category of outcome, the evidence on the likelihood of impact was classified as strong, promising, limited, or needed (i.e., weak).

For participation, the evidence on the impact of conditional cash transfers, information about the potential employment returns to education, and the provision of additional schools in underserved and unsafe areas was found to be strong. This was also the case for the evidence on some interventions related to teacher training, group-learning, and measures to promote girl-friendly schools as well as learning outside the classroom, for example through tutoring. Several of these interventions (group-learning, programs for learning outside the classroom, and scholarships linked to student performance) were also found to have clear impacts on learning. The evidence on the impact of interventions on empowerment was generally found to be weaker.

This type of review and the studies on which such reviews are based are of high value for policy-makers. The World Bank has also started to put together a systematic database of impact evaluations and its Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund is providing funding for rigorous evaluations. What else is needed? We need more experiments and evaluations. But we also need assessments of the cost effectiveness of various types of interventions, so that Ministries of Education can make the right decision under their budget constraints. And we need more research on the political economy of program expansion to understand how great innovations can be scaled up and sustained.

Note: this post is reproduced with minor edits from a post published on October 29, 2014 on the World Bank’s Let’s Talk Development blog available at https://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/reducing-gender-gap-education

An Ambulance for a Nepalese Community

by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon

In 2009, after several years of efforts, Neil Young from the Towsontowne Rotary Club and other Rotarians traveled to Nepal on the occasion of the donation of an ambulance to the Setiganga Community Hospital which serves over 100,000 people in the foothills of the Annapurna Range. The donation was made feasible through fundraising by several clubs (Towsontowne, Hunt Valley, Downtown Towson, and Damauli in Nepal) as well as matching funds from the district and the Rotary Foundation.

June issue - Nepal

The project started when Prem Mahat, also a Rotarian from the Towsontowne club who had grown up in the Setiganga Community, suggested to build a bridge for the community. Although the Rotarian team was initially going to help build this bridge, they realized when doing more research that the Setiganga Community really needed an ambulance first.

The ambulance has done a lot of good for the community. But as Neil told the story, it also led to something none of the members of the team could have anticipated. One of the Rotarians who traveled to Nepal was Lauren, a doctor who had come to work with two other pediatric surgeons to help provide care to children in the community. She had arrived a few weeks earlier in order to take the opportunity to hike the beautiful Annapurna Range.

Towards the end of her hike, Lauren saw a little girl sleeping on rags in a run-down hostel. Lauren approached the owner of the hostel and asked him about the girl. The owner told her that the girl’s mother had not been able to afford to keep her and hence had sold her to him to serve as a kitchen aid. But as the girl was not of much use, the owner intended to get rid of her. Lauren immediately offered some money to take the girl with her. She brought her down to Kathmandu were she found a boarding school that accepted the girl.

The message of this last story in this series of stories about district Rotarians engaged in service work is that you never really know what a service project can lead to. Prem’s initial idea of a bridge led to the donation of an ambulance under Neil’s leadership, but it also led to this girl being saved by Lauren from a life of hardship. The ambulance project probably saved many lives, but it also transformed the life of that girl. As to Neil’s advice to Rotarians, it is to“learn how to work as a team in Rotary because together you can make a much larger difference together”.

Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

 

Five Steps to Improve Girls’ Education and Job Prospects

by Mattias Lundberg, Oni Lusk-Stover, and Quentin Wodon

What comes first to your mind when you think about girls’ education? There may be a good chance that you remember a particular girl you met who could not go to primary school. Or perhaps you will visualize one of those great pictures of smiling and studious girls attending primary school in a developing country thanks to a particular project or intervention.

Both pictures are correct, but they account for only a small part of the story.Until recently, many girls did not even complete primary school. But dramatic progress has been achieved toward gender equity in basic education as part of the Millennium Development Goals. While more remains to be done, today’s challenges for improving girls’ education, skills, and job prospects have changed.

More attention needs to be given to what happens before and after primary school. For girls and young women to acquire the skills they need, five steps – suggested by the World Bank’s STEP framework – are needed. The good news is that at each step, we have a good idea of which interventions can help girls fulfill their potential.

First, give girls a strong foundation through early childhood development (ECD). Disadvantages built early in life are difficult to remedy, but effective ECD programs can avoid such disadvantages and thereby yield high payoffs. ECD programs build the technical, cognitive, and behavioral skills conducive to high productivity later in life. Successful interventions emphasize, among other areas, nutrition, stimulation, and basic cognitive skills.

A new study suggests that in Jamaica, 20 years after an ECD intervention was conducted, the average earnings of beneficiaries – boys and girls – were 42% higher than those of the control group. While such large gains might not be obtained if all children were benefiting from such interventions, which is the ultimate aim, it is nevertheless clear that early psychosocial stimulation can substantially improve future earnings.

The second step focuses on basic education. Gaps remain, to be sure: Data from a forthcoming paper suggest that in 24 low-income countries, only 34% of girls in the poorest 20% of households complete primary school, compared with 72% of girls in the richest 20% of households. These income-related gaps can be reduced through interventions to reduce the opportunity cost of schooling for girls, such as conditional cash transfers.

In Yemen, one such new program targeting girls in grades 4-9 in disadvantaged communities is reaching close to 40,000 girls. In addition to increasing enrollment and attendance, we also need to ensure that all girls who go to school can learn—by building stronger schooling systems with clear learning standards, good teachers, adequate resources, and a proper regulatory environment that emphasizes accountability.

But learning for what? Education for its own sake certainly has an intrinsic value, but education and training that proves useful in the workplace is also essential. The third step in helping girls grow is to provide them with job-relevant skills that employers actually demand, or that they can use in launching their own business.

Many countries have achieved (or are making rapid progress toward) gender parity in basic education. By contrast, labor force participation in most developing countries remains substantially lower for young women than men. In India, Nigeria and South Africa, more than three-quarters of all girls aged 15-24 are not engaged in paid work and are not looking for work. And according to the International Income Distribution Database, nearly 40% of young women globally are either unemployed or ‘idle’ (not in education, nor work). In addition are the millions of young women who are engaged in unpaid or unproductive work.

Clearly, this represents a significant loss to their families as well as to economic growth. How can we get young women into productive work? According to new research conducted as part of the World Bank’s Adolescent Girls’ Initiative, a program in Liberia that provided girls age 16-27 with life skills, training, and job placement assistance increased employment by nearly 50%, and nearly doubled incomes. The program also had positive impacts on self-confidence, satisfaction with job outcomes, and household food security.

Step four relates to the creation of an environment that encourages investments in knowledge and creativity. This requires innovation-specific skills and investments to help connect people with ideas, as well as risk management tools that facilitate innovation. Again, girls are at a disadvantage when compared with boys, with fewer opportunities and, therefore, lower rates of entrepreneurship in many countries.

A new program in Uganda run by the nongovernmental organization BRAC provides girls age 14-20 with a safe space, life skills training, and livelihoods training for self-employment based on local market conditions. This program generated significant income gains from self-employment with no adverse effects on schooling outcomes. In addition, childbearing among beneficiaries declined, the proportion of girls using condoms increased, and the incidence of forced sex decreased.

Finally, and this is the fifth and last step, it is important that societies promote flexible, efficient, and secure labor markets. Apart from avoiding rigid job protection regulations while strengthening income protection systems, providing intermediation services for workers and firms is important to transform skills into actual employment and productivity.

This matters even more for girls than for boys, as girls are often more constrained and have limited access to opportunities, which in turn can lead to diminished expectations. But this can be overcome, at least in part, by providing information on how markets really work. For example, research suggests that women who were shown videos of other women working in traditionally male occupations, such as auto repair, and who were told that wages were higher in such fields, were more likely to choose and enroll in training in those traditionally male-dominated fields.

When thinking about girls’ education, there’s nothing wrong with picturing primary schools. But to help girls succeed in life, this is not enough: We need to pay equal attention to what happens before and after primary school. Girls and young women entering the 21st century job market will need skills and knowledge that can be developed only throughout their lifetime. They need our support at every step along the way.

Note: this post is reproduced with minor changes from a post on the Education for Global Development blog of the World Bank available at http://blogs.worldbank.org/education/