The recent demographic report by the World Bank has revealed that gender disparity in earnings is stifling the nation’s economy. It says that closing the gender gap in earnings, especially in critical sectors of the economy, where the disparity is manifestly skewed against women, will boost the economy by about $9.3 billion and $22.9 billion. According to the report, addressing the gender disparity in earnings will ensure inclusive economic growth, while failure to address it will undermine women’s economic empowerment.
Based on the Nigeria General Household Survey of 2018/2019, the World Bank report underlined the gender gaps in labour force participation, the causative factors, as well as the cost of the gender gaps and innovative options to close them. On the gender gap in agriculture, the study points out that male farmers use over eight times more fertilizer and 50 per cent more herbicide than their female counterparts per hectare of land. As a result of such disparity, the report noted that lower use of these inputs has constrained the production of female plot managers.
In all, the World Bank report reflects the gender inequality in earnings in Nigeria and the effects are telling on the economy despite current effort by Nigerian women to break the glass ceiling. Undoubtedly, disparity in earnings remains something that requires collective effort to close. The gender disparity in earnings is largely a cultural thing in many parts of the country, especially in the North where women are restricted from getting involved in areas such as politics, agriculture, and other professions dominated by men. There is no doubt that promoting gender equality could be a game changer for Nigerian economy.
A recent review of the Nigerian economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agrees with the World Bank that closing the gender gap, whether it arises from cultural norms, biology or psychology prevalent in our society, will mean higher growth, productivity and greater economic stability. If the gender gap is closed, research shows that this could grow the economy by an average of as much as 1.25 per cent.
Although gender disparity exists in other countries, it appears more pronounced in Nigeria, and this is clearly evident in areas such as school enrollment, where girls are much less likely to go to school than the boys, with Zamfara State reportedly the lowest, according to the latest West African Examination Council (WAEC) statistics. That is why the Girl-Child education policy should be given more impetus. Women are also reported to be less likely to access health services or gain access to financial services. In addition, legal gaps exist as laws that grant women equal rights do not exist. These opportunities at the end translate into differences in earnings among the genders. A recent data by the IMF also revealed that in the labour market in Nigeria, for every four men, three women participate in the informal sector of the economy. Similarly, the same narrative obtains in the political arena where women are less than two per cent at both local, state and national legislatures. While affirmative action is necessary to ensure gender equality in earnings, more enlightenment is necessary for women to know that they have a big role to play in closing the gender gap.
In all, we believe that closing the gender gap and promoting gender equality will be smart economics, provided government and non-governmental organisations work together to address the problems that hamper women empowerment. Women should be made to have equal access to education, health, security and others. We need a robust gender policies tailored to benefit more women. Such policies must be replicated across the states.
Now that political parties are about to conduct their primaries, we urge them to give some slots to women as a way of guaranteeing women inclusion in our politics. Let them remove other encumbrances that hinder women’s participation in politics. Ensuring gender parity in education and employment will enhance economic growth and societal cohesion. The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that it will take an agonisingly 267.6 years to close the economic gender gap if urgent steps to do so are not taken now. It also calls for gender-friendly policies that will enable more women be in leadership positions in government and other sectors.