Fiscal policy as tool for promotion of gender equality

Despite the increase in female labour force participation over the past three decades, women still do not have the same opportunities as men to participate in economic activities in most countries. 
 
The average female labour force participation rate across countries is still 20 percentage lower than their male rate, and gender gaps in wages and access to education still persist.
 
Indeed, reports by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showed that greater gender equality boosts economic growth and leads to better development and social outcomes. 

 
Similarly, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that reducing the gender gap in participation 25 per cent by 2025 could boost global GDP 3.9 per cent.
 
Gender equality is also one of the 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that 193 countries committed to achieve by 2030. 
 
Since the mid-1980s, many countries have adopted fiscal policy measures to promote gender equality. Countries use tax and expenditure policies to address gender inequality and the advancement of women in areas such as education and economic empowerment. 
 
As of 2018, at least 80 countries have used gender-responsive fiscal policy interventions to reduce gender inequality.  
 
Experts opined that understanding the effects of gender-responsive fiscal policies not only on gender inequality, but also on other macroeconomic and social variables is essential for policymakers in designing effective and sustainable gender-responsive fiscal policy measures, particularly in a fiscally constrained environment.
 
The findings, they argued confirmed that these gender-responsive fiscal policies could support female labour force participation and have important macroeconomic and distributional effects.
 
As the world marked International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 with theme, “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights”, the emerging global consensus is that despite some progress, real change has been agonisingly slow for the majority of women and girls in the world.
 
Findings by the UN showed that today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality, rather there is a significant threat of rollback of hard-won feminist gains.
 
Multiple obstacles remain unchanged in law and in culture. Women and girls continue to be undervalued; they work more and earn less and have fewer choices; and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces. 
 
The UN had therefore marked year 2020 to represent an unmissable opportunity to mobilise global action to achieve gender equality and human rights of all women and girls.
 
Undoubtedly, Nigeria has enormous unexploited potentials, especially the capabilities of women whose productivity is greatly hampered by widespread inequality, especially in education.
 
The Guardian sought the opinions of some female leaders in the labour force, they insisted that to consolidate the gains of gender mainstreaming, affiliate unions need to take practical steps by moving forward from policy to action for the promotion of gender equality, labour rights and standards for women.
 
President of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSIBIFI), Oyinkan Olasanoye, said in Nigeria the gap on gender equality is getting worse. 

Before now, at the National Assembly, she said, there used to be more women but the gap now is getting lesser, thereby not making it possible for Nigeria to achieve gender equality soonest. 

“Because it is at the point of decision taking that we need more women not at the grassroots for us to be able to achieve gender equality. We are appealing that they should give us fairness and equity, give us a level playing ground for us to be able to compete favourably.
 
“It is still a surprise that our leaders in Nigeria do not realise that when they empower women, they empower development and economic activities.

“ I appeal to my fellow women that when it is time to vote, we should vote for more women, encourage ourselves and those at the top should create mentorship for those of us coming behind them,” she said.

 
Meanwhile, she acknowledged that there has been increase from the labour unions encouraging women into leadership positions.According to her: “Our leaders in the labour force have realised that they can’t clap with one hand. They are now encouraging us. They have become a source of mentor to women, which has made us to see more women in the labour sector.”
 
Also, Chairman, Lagos State, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Funmi Sessi, who mentioned Convention 190 of the ILO on the right of women, called for equal rights to vote and be voted for. She said women should have the right to quality education and right to contribute to economic development.She queried President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement at an international forum where he said a woman’s office should be ‘in the kitchen and the other room’. 
 
According to her, he is relegating a woman’s worth. She said overseas, women have voice more than men, which has made them garner respect on the global scene.
 
A former President of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU), Ladi Iliya, insisted that to consolidate the gains of gender mainstreaming, affiliate unions need to take practical steps by moving forward from policy to action for the promotion of gender equality, labour rights and standards for women, young workers and other vulnerable groups. 
   
She insisted that gender mainstreaming will enhance decent work thereby creating a free, safe and conducive environment, saying addressing related issues such as low representation of women and young workers in decision-making bodies and processes is very important.
 
Senior Vice Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank Group, Mrs Bola Adesola, argued that with about 96.6 million women in Nigeria, the participation of women in key decision-making areas across all sectors of the economy is abysmally low. 

Adesola, who spoke on, “Female participation: An Imperative for National Development,” at a forum recently, said for national development to take place, participation and involvement of women can no longer be ignored.
 
However, for women to participate actively in national development, she noted that certain obstacles must be removed, and an enabling environment that empowers women to rise is equally essential.

 
Adesola, who cited Rwanda as one of the countries with the highest female representation in parliament in the world with 61 per cent representation, said Nigeria has one of the lowest rates in female representation in parliament across Africa and globally.

For Nigeria to achieve higher female representation across the board, she noted that there is a need for Nigerian women to empower themselves to participate actively in governance and leadership in the three tiers of government.
 
While celebrating the IWD, president of the World Bank Group, David Malpass, re-emphasized that the World Bank Group stands ready to join forces with all stakeholders working to empower women and unleash their economic potential.He said globally, women-led businesses face a credit gap of $1.5 trillion, that with gender-focused policies and programmes can further enable girls and women to realise their economic potential.

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