New BWP report: The World Bank’s macroeconomic policies and women’s rights
Written by Ella Hopkins - with a collaborative effort between the Bretton Woods Project, the Gender and Development Network (GADN), International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IRAW) Asia Pacific and the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice (Latindadd)
A new report from the Bretton Woods Project, Learning lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic: The World Bank’s macroeconomic policies and women’s rights, available online here. The briefing, written by Ella Hopkins, is part of the Gender Equality and Macroeconomics (GEM) project, a collaborative effort between the Bretton Woods Project, the Gender and Development Network (GADN), International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IRAW) Asia Pacific and the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice (Latindadd), which aims to expose and challenge the ways current macroeconomic policies, particularly those promoted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, can undermine gender equality.
The key arguments of the report are as follows:
- The Bank’s current frameworks for analysing its work from a gender perspective, guided by its current Gender Strategy, have a critical blind spot which largely neglects the impacts of its macroeconomic policy advice on gender equality. This has resulted in the Bank supporting austerity policies, including through its development policy finance (DPF) instrument, which can be very harmful to gender equality, without adequately assessing their impacts. These impacts have been compounded by the global health crisis.
- The briefing sets out five national cases studies to illustrate the World Bank’s use of austerity and privatisation in low- and middle-income countries prior to the pandemic, highlighting the likely harmful gendered impacts of these policies. In Ecuador, Kenya, Ethiopia, Jamaica, and Gabon, the report shows that time and time again World Bank imposed or promoted reforms of pension, labour policy, removal of energy subsidies, and other austerity measures that weakened governments’ capacities to respond to the crisis, thereby enhancing the vulnerability of the population, in particular women.
- If the World Bank is to support a just recovery, including for women, it must remove requirements from existing and future loan programs for countries to adopt fiscal consolidation measures, to adopt measures to contain public sector wage bills, to adopt regressive taxes like VAT, and to adopt labour flexibilization measures. The report further argues that before introducing macroeconomic reforms, the World Bank should conduct systematic and robust ex-ante and ex-post impact assessments that measure how its macroeconomic policy advice impacts economic and gender inequality.
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