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Report exposes inequality

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Betchani Tchereni

Malawi may have a long way to go in its financial inclusion drive and equal participation in economic activities as a recent World Bank report has revealed that women continue lagging behind in economic participation and growth.

In its recent Malawi Economic Monitor titled Addressing Macro and Gender Imbalances, the Bretton Woods institution says the Covid pandemic has disproportionately affected business women and female-headed households in the country and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities.

According to the report, female wage workers earn about 64 cents for each dollar earned by men

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It says women entrepreneurs’ firms sales are below those of male entrepreneurs while agricultural plots managed by men produce an average of 25 percent higher yields than plots managed by women.

The World Bank says, due to the Covid pandemic, in 2020, female-led firms experienced an average decline of 40 percent, compared to around 35 percent among male-owned firms.

The Bank further found that, in May 2021, 56 percent of female-headed households had reported reductions in their total income, compared to 40 percent of men and the bank warned of dwindling development if the issue is not addressed.

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“There is a need to expand interventions directed at increasing savings and improving women’s management of personal finances. Evidence-based interventions to help achieve this include introducing direct deposit commitments and supporting in-kind contributions to increase better use of money,” suggests the report.

The report has attributed the development to early marriages, which rob women of their intellectual capabilities, and limited voice for women to encourage and enforce policy changes and turn around other ills.

Economist from the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences Betchani Tchereni said the revelations of the report should be a cause for worry because they mearnt a section which holds a bigger percentage of Malawi’s population is dismally participating in economic growth.

He added that the reduced economic participation of women means that the country has a long way to go in achieving financial inclusion because a certain group of people is being left behind.

“We need to have deliberate efforts that will uplift women such as soft loans for businesses which have higher amounts and pegging salaries based on the type of the job rather than based on gender,” he said.

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