March 4, 2013
Laos could reap greater benefits from the country’s rapid economic growth by reducing gender inequality and vulnerability in remote rural areas, according to a new joint report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.
The ADB and World Bank launched the country gender assessment for Laos on Friday with the Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women attending the launching ceremony.
The report said economic growth has also enhanced women’s ability to take full advantage of expanding economic opportunities, particularly in urban and lowland areas.
International experts have agreed that gender equality is a core development objective and is also smart economics, saying that it can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.
The assessment presents gender issues and provides recommendations for the issues into three main areas of gender equality – endowment, economic opportunities, and agency.
“The country gender assessment for Laos has the subtitle of reducing vulnerability, and increasing opportunity for all women in the country. This is exactly what we would like to see in a dynamically changing Laos,” said ADB Country Director for Laos, Mr Chong Ghi Nai.
The report suggests that although the government’s commitment to achieving gender equality has progressed, persistent imbalances remain in human development endowments such as in health, education, and clean water and sanitation, particularly in remote areas.
Geographic, socio-cultural, and linguistic challenges also remain, the report said.
Regarding business, the private sector is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs in the country, and 30 to 40 percent of these new entrepreneurs are women. However, the report says, emerging opportunities and new risks affect women and men differently.
While women are active participants in the labour force, wage gaps persist and job options for women and men remain segregated.
In politics, the report says, women’s participation has steadily advanced, but their increasing representation within the government structures at central level has not filtered down to the provincial and local levels, despite efforts by the Lao Women’s Union to reach out to women from national to village level.
To address these issues, the assessment recommends expanding the coverage and quality of social services, expanding job opportunities through improved technical and vocational training, narrowing gender gaps in accessing productive assets, improving women’s involvement in infrastructure investments, reducing violence against women, improving capacity and institutional support for gender mainstreaming machinery, and supporting progress in women’s representation in government at national and local levels.
“As Laos continues along its development path, empowering women and girls will be key to translating the country’s economic growth and demographic dividend into development achievements,” said World Bank Country Director for Laos Ms Keiko Miwa.
The assessment has taken information and findings from recent literature and research on gender issues in Laos for ADB’s and World Bank’s country partnership strategies.
It will also contribute to the work of the Lao government and development partners by bringing the latest information on gender issues to the fore.