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Weekly links March 9: export super-stars, poor stats on poor women, psychosocial interventions for refugees, psychologists up their game, and more...

David McKenzie's picture
  • Among the many posts on international women’s day, I thought our readers might find most useful this one on measurement of poverty and gender by Carolina Sanchez and Ana-Maria Munoz-Boudet “No, 70% of the world’s poor aren’t women, but this doesn’t mean poverty isn’t sexist
  • Emergency loans that are automatically given out when disaster hits as a substitute for microinsurance – summarized by Feed the Future – “Results ... show that the availability of emergency loans has had a big effect on how these farmers manage risk. Households who knew they were pre-qualified planted about 25 percent more rice than households who were not offered the emergency loan” (h/t Mushfiq Mobarak).
  • Video and slides from Ana Fernandes’ policy research talk on exporter dynamics, superstar firms, and trade policy – it is stunning how large a share of exports from many developing countries comes from the top 1% or even top 5 exporters.
  • Have you questioned your life choices enough lately? If not, Video of Lant Pritchett’s talk last month at NYU’s DRI on “The Debate about RCTs in Development is over. We won. They lost”

Celebrating Africa's Female Athletes and Leaders of Tomorrow

Makhtar Diop's picture
Stephan Gladieu/World Bank

Last week we saw two Ivorian women, Murielle Ahouré and Marie-Josée Ta Lou, fly past the finish line in a historic one-two finish in the 60 meters sprint at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England while Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba triumphed in a gritty 800 meters race. From the 60 meters to the 3000 meters, African women graced the podium or were not far from it, a testament to their athletic prowess.

Moving towards gender equality in Bhutan

Tenzin Lhaden's picture
Accompanying rapid economic development, Bhutan has greatly reduced gaps in gender equality.
Photo Caption: Sonam 'Sherlock' Phuntsho/World Bank

“…never did I imagine that I would live to see this day, when a woman would be serving at this level,” said my 86-year-old grandmother with her eyes beaming while watching the inauguration ceremony of the first female Minister of Bhutan.

Bhutan is a small country nestled in the eastern Himalayas between China and India, has managed to maintain its rich and unique cultural heritage in this modern-day age, partly due to its relative isolation during much of the last century. Bhutan is one of the smallest but fastest-growing economies in the world and a success story in poverty reduction.

Accompanying rapid economic development, Bhutan has greatly reduced gaps in gender equality. The net primary enrolment rate, that is the percentage of children attending school in 2016 was 98.8% for girls compared to 97% for boys. There has also been an increasing representation of girls at the higher secondary level although the lag continues at the university level.

Gender gaps in labor markets and job quality was identified as one of the main areas of gender gaps in the 2013 World Bank Gender Note Policy. Although tremendous progress has been made, - 58% of Bhutanese women working for pay or looking for jobs - the female labor force participation saw a slight decline compared to men in 2016. It remains one of the highest in the region[1].

Artificial intelligence for smart cities: insights from Ho Chi Minh City’s spatial development

Ran Goldblatt's picture
Zoning by Land Parcel (Source:

It’s amazing to see what technology can do these days! Satellites provide daily images of almost every location on earth, and computers can be trained to process massive amounts of data generated from them to produce insightful analysis/information. This is just one of the demonstrations of artificial intelligence (AI). AI can go beyond just reading images captured from space, it can help improve lives overall.

For urban governance, machine learning and AI are increasingly used to provide near real-time analysis of how cities change in practice – for example, through the conversion of green areas into built-up structures. By teaching computers what to look for in satellite images, rapidly expanding sources of satellite data (public and commercial), together with machine learning algorithms, can be leveraged to quickly reveal how actual city development aligns with planning and zoning or which communities are most prone to flooding. This provides insights beyond the basic satellite snapshots and time-lapse visualizations that can now be readily generated for any areas of interest.

But the barriers to applying these technologies can still seem daunting for many cities around the world. It’s not always clear how exactly to analyze this massive amount of satellite data, nor how to get access to it.

To build a brighter future, invest in women and girls

Jim Yong Kim's picture

Arne Hoel

As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, there has never been a more critical time to invest in people, especially in women and girls. 

Skills, knowledge, and know-how – collectively called human capital – have become an enormous share of global wealth, bigger than produced capital such as factories or industry, or natural resources.

But human capital wealth is not evenly distributed around the world, and it’s a larger slice of wealth as countries develop. How, then, can developing countries build their human capital and prepare for a more technologically demanding future?

The answer is they must invest much more in the building blocks of human capital – in nutrition, health, education, social protection, and jobs. And the biggest returns will come from educating and nurturing girls, empowering women, and ensuring that social safety nets increase their resilience.

According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school, and 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – will never enter a classroom. Women’s participation in the global labor market is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men, and women’s labor force participation fell from 52 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2016.

What if we could fix this? Fostering women’s labor force participation, business ownership, and improvements in productivity could add billions to the global economy.

Getting to equal in Mongolia’s labor market (and leadership market)

Jim Anderson's picture
Photo: © World Bank

Yesterday morning I participated in the “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event at the opening of the Mongolian Stock Exchange. A global event sponsored by the IFC and other partners*, the event highlights how economies and individual companies benefit from efforts to close gender gaps in their operations and governing structures.

Earlier I had dug out my notes from a survey of listed companies conducted in 1996.  Only 25 of the 249 companies we surveyed counted women as general directors. Today, women lead around six percent of the top 100 listed firms – that is, fewer than 20 years ago.  This does not mean that there has not been progress. The last time the World Bank Group enterprises surveys were done, Mongolia had a similar or larger share of firms with women in top management. This number is higher than the region’s average, but such leadership roles were more heavily weighted to smaller firms.  Whereas 31 percent of medium-sized firms – that is, those with 20-99 employees – had female top managers, only 17 percent of firms with over 100 employees had women in senior management.

Getting to equal at the top requires more systematic scrutiny of the factors that support or hinder women’s economic empowerment throughout their lives. No one is born a CEO.

So, where are the gender gaps?

The key to unlocking the economic potential of the Western Balkans? Women.

Linda Van Gelder's picture
Since arriving to the Western Balkans nearly one year ago, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with extraordinary people around the region - one of the most interesting and dynamic locations in the world. Not a day goes by that I am not inspired by the likes of Marija Bosheva’s, who is studying to become a scientist at a new laboratory for oenology and soil science in the FYR Macedonia, or Valoriana Hasi, a young Kosovar now working in ICT after completing a training for women in online work.
Stories like these remind me of the vast economic potential of this region, especially if countries here tap into one of their most valuable resources: women.

On International Women’s Day, I’m Celebrating the Power of Educating Girls

Oni Lusk-Stover's picture
In May 2016, I visited a refugeed camp in northern Iraq, where together with colleagues, I toured an NGO-run school that offers children a chance to be in safe space where learning and thinking about their hopes and dreams is possible. A young woman followed us around the school throughout the tour, watching us and listening intently to our conversations. After building up the courage, she approached me to ask about my visit, my family and what it was like to live in the United States. In turn, she told me about her family, her favorite subject in school (English) and how she wants to become a doctor when she grows up.


No, 70% of the world’s poor aren’t women, but that doesn’t mean poverty isn’t sexist

Carolina Sanchez's picture
“Seventy percent of the world’s extreme poor are women”. If you’ve encountered this statistic before, please raise your hand. That is a lot of hands. And yet, this is what we call a ‘zombie statistic’: often quoted but rarely, if ever, presented with a source from which the number can be replicated.