The lives of girls and women have changed dramatically over the past quarter century. The pace of change has been astonishing in some areas, but in others, progress toward gender equality has been limited—even in developed countries.
This year's World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development argues that gender equality is a core development objective in its own right. It is also smart economics. Greater gender equality can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.
The Report also focuses on four priority areas for policy going forward: (i) reducing excess female mortality and closing education gaps where they remain, (ii) improving access to economic opportunities for women (iii) increasing women's voice and agency in the household and in society and (iv) limiting the reproduction of gender inequality across generations.
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The Report has nine chapters in three parts.
Part I Taking stock of gender equality
Part 1:Taking stock of gender equality—presents the facts that will then provide the foundation for the rest of the Report. It combines existing and new data to document changes in key dimensions of gender equality over the past quarter century and across regions and countries. Its main message is that very rapid and, in some cases, unprecedented progress has been made in some dimensions of gender equality (chapter 1), but that it has not reached all women or been uniform across all dimensions of gender equality (chapter 2).
Part II What has driven progress? What impedes it?
The contrast between the patterns and trends described in the first two chapters of the Report prompts one to ask what explains the progress or lack of it. Part 2—What has driven progress? What impedes it?—constitutes the analytical core of the Report. It presents the conceptual framework and uses it to examine the factors that have fostered change and the constraints that have slowed progress. The analysis focuses on gender differences in education and health (chapter 3), agency (chapter 4), and access to economic opportunities (chapter 5)—discussing the roles of economic growth, households, markets, and institutions in determining outcomes in these three spheres. Part 2 concludes with a discussion of the impact of globalization on gender inequality, paying attention to the opportunities and challenges created by new economic and social trends (chapter 6). The analysis in these four chapters leads to the identification of four priority areas for action: reducing gender gaps in human capital endowments, promoting higher access to economic opportunities among women, closing gender gaps in household and societal voice, and limiting the intergenerational reproduction of gender inequality.
Part III The role of and potential for public action
Part 3—The role and potential for public action—presents policy recommendations, examines the political economy of reforms for gender equality, and proposes a global agenda for action. The discussion starts with a detailed description of policy options addressing the four priority areas, complemented with concrete illustrations of successful interventions in different contexts (chapter 7). An examination of the political economy of gender reforms follows, with an emphasis on the issues that distinguish reform in this area from other types of redistributive or equality-enhancing reforms (chapter 8). Global action on gender equality should focus on complementing country efforts on the four priority areas identified in the Report (chapter 9).