In a recent report, the World Bank interestingly puts great emphasis on jobs (livelihoods) and “enhancing gender parity” in its most recent studies and reports on South Asia. The reports are detailed and make for rather dry reading, but what is interesting for Jeevika and its supporters is how much employment is accounted for by small-scale “own account” enterprise even in such areas as manufacturing.
By far, most employment in India comes from self-employment and casual labour and that transition from casual labouring to self-employment will continue to be where the future lies in the near term for most people trying to escape poverty. Salaried employment, despite the high levels of economic growth in India in particular, still only provided 17% of all employment in 2009/10.
I don’t think you will find mention of Schumacher Economics or “Small is Beautiful” anywhere on the World Bank’s website but the statistics they provide show that small-scale employment opportunities make up the bulk of those that exist. The challenge of course is to improve the quality and conditions of such employment with much of the work being “small” scale but far from “beautiful” — especially when it boils down to poorly paid casual labour in bad working conditions.
The way to achieve that is to improve skills, education, and most importantly of all, to “enhance gender parity” as the World Bank describes it, especially if issues like the childhood malnutrition still endemic in the region are to be properly addressed.
Excerpts from the World Bank report on South Asia:
In 2011, the Bank produced a regional flagship report, More and Better Jobs in South Asia. To strengthen the World Bank’s understanding of the policies conducive to inclusive growth, the South Asia region team is working on a new flagship report on Equity for Development, in which inequality in income and consumption will be studied alongside inequality of access and opportunities.
Building Skills and Improving Health and Nutrition Outcomes
The World Bank has strengthened its focus on promoting a multi-sectoral agenda to tackle the severe nutrition problems in South Asia, and on mainstreaming gender issues into its operations. South Asia has 330 million undernourished people, more than sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Bank is drawing on the World Development Report (WDR) 2012 findings as it intensifies its efforts to enhance gender parity in the region. Efforts include strategic mainstreaming across the portfolio, such as the South Asia Gender Initiative, which is working across sectors to mainstream gender; understand gender identities (women’s and men’s) across generations; and support Impact Evaluations of Rural Livelihoods projects in India and Nepal and gender-specific projects.
In addition, the Bank has many stand-alone gender-based projects such as the National Rural Livelihoods Project in India and the Adolescent Girls Initiative in Afghanistan, which aims to help girls stay in school and build skills so they can find jobs.
If you would like to support Jeevika’s work with the poorest of the poor in India, through livelihood initiatives just like those mentioned by the World Bank, please consider making a donation: