WHY DO GENDER-RESPONSIVE MACROECONOMIC POLICIES MATTER FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA?
Macroeconomic policies aim to assess the state of the economy and prescribe practical ways of improving economic performance. Policy tools such as monetary, fiscal, financial, labour and income policies are typically used by the government of a country to promote economic growth, price stability, employment, etc. These policies aim to produce sustainable and beneficial outcomes for all, which will have an overall impact on socio-economic growth and development. According to the National Bureau of Statistics’ final statistical report on men and women in Nigeria in 2018, women and men constitute 49.2 per cent and 50.8 per cent of the Nigerian population, respectively.
Gender inequality in Nigeria is high and widespread across areas of economic opportunities and outcomes. These inequalities have led to substantial macroeconomic losses in growth, income equality, and economic diversification. Nigeria's real GDP per capita growth could, on average, be higher by 1¼ percentage points annually if gender inequality was reduced to that of peers in the region. Equality in outcomes (labour force participation, employment, entrepreneurship, political representation) and opportunities (legal rights, access to education, health and finance) matter for current and future development outcomes. Existing evidence shows a link between gender equality and better development outcomes such as higher GDP, increased productivity and economic growth. Consequently, gender-responsive macroeconomic policies are beneficial for national economic growth and development. A gender-responsive policy takes into account gender unique needs and barriers to effectively address challenges.
Image: (Stakeholder Validation Meeting: Gender Analysis of the Nigerian Social Safety nets Project by Enyenaweh)
Policy interventions should analyze gender norms to determine how they shape and influence gender roles and whether they contribute to greater gender equality or intensify an imbalance of power.Current macroeconomic policies have failed to create an enabling environment for the realization of women’s rights. The economic costs associated with daily gender realities are often ignored, and this can result in policies doing more damage than good. Overlooking gender biases and varying experiences in the formulation of macroeconomic policies might serve to intensify gender inequalities in itself without addressing the surrounding issues. For example, the interaction between gender-based violence (GBV), and its interaction with work productivity and experience, affect the effectiveness of policies geared towards creating access to and more jobs for equality.
GBV is one of the most oppressive forms of gender inequality, posing a fundamental barrier to the equal participation of women and men in social, economic, and political spheres. It affects both men and women, but women are much more vulnerable because violence reflects and reinforces existing gender inequalities. The National Bureau of Statistics' 2018 statistical report on men and women indicates that many women in Nigeria experience GBV at work and home. The economic costs of GBV include expenditures on service provision, foregone income for women and their families, decreased productivity, and negative impacts on human capital formation, which are burdensome to developing economies. A study on university women conducted in Enugu state in Nigeria showed a high prevalence of GBV at work. Similarly, a World Bank GBV analysis in Nigeria indicates that women in male-dominated occupations are particularly vulnerable to harassment and violence and are excluded economic.
Exposure to GBV can affect women's mental and physical health and work productivity in these work settings. Although GBV has long been recognized as a human rights issue, the repercussions for economic opportunities also need to be identified. Women’s participation in the paid workforce will not on its own be sufficient to advance gender equality and women’s rights. Economic interventions to produce equal work opportunities might be counterproductive due to higher work absenteeism, lower productivity, and lower earnings for affected women. Policies, therefore, need to factor in gender biases and the economic cost of surrounding factors.
Another example is presented in the creation of equal financial outcomes. A gender at work-study by the world bank suggests that for entrepreneurs, especially in developing nations and in more impoverished communities, unequal access to financial capital is a vital gender barrier. The findings indicate that schemes such as advancing microloans to women to start businesses prove ineffective. On the surface, advancing sums of money might be the solution to bridging the access gap, but this does not factor in the indices of varying experiences. Systematic reviews have revealed no significant effect of microloans overall on poor women's business outcomes. This results from barriers such as a woman's control of finances, bargaining power within the household, and the more significant pressure to share funds with other family members. The gender at work-study suggests that especially for the poorest women who experience multiple constraints, multicomponent social protection programs and linked services may be needed to complement financial capital or open up alternatives for women who would be better off in wage jobs than entrepreneurship. Consequently, macroeconomic policies need to be engendered to factor in varying realities to produce sustainable, effective and beneficial outcomes for all.
Identifying existing gender barriers in the creation and implementation of policies, and adopting strategic gender-responsive approaches, will support the achievement of intended goals of macroeconomic policies. As seen above, inequality is highly prevalent in Nigerian society. Data presented indicates inequality in work, ownership, business leadership, education, access to finance, etc. Sustainable development is inclusive and cannot be attained without addressing these inequalities. High inequality in terms of income and opportunities will continue to affect poverty reduction and economic growth in Nigeria adversely. Nigeria faces massive developmental challenges and needs to build strong and effective institutions and policies, to address these challenges and promote economic growth and development.
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