A new study has found that gender equality is a critical component of efforts in the developing world to achieve what economists call a “demographic dividend.”
Demographic dividend refers to harnessing the vigour of a surging youth population to generate a period of sustained economic growth.
The report, by the Bellagio Working Group on Gender Equality conducted as part of the Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS), observes that if countries in Africa and South Asia want to experience a demographic dividend, they need to “address gender inequalities and rigid gender expectations that limit the future of many of the world’s young people.”
It reflects the assessment of 22 experts from 15 countries whose analysis, Achieving Gender Equality by 2030: Putting Adolescents at the Centre, finds that boys have as equal a part to play as girls in achieving the fifth of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG5), which seeks to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030.
The report states: “We must actively engage girls and boys at the onset of adolescence to increase total social inclusion and produce generational change.”
It also supports a new report, to be released next week at the Women Deliver Conference in Canada, that the world will never achieve gender equality “by focusing on girls and women alone and excluding boys and men.”
According to that report, the current indicators for SDG5 ignore boys and men. But it warns that “we cannot achieve a gender equitable world by ignoring half of its occupants.”
They conclude that the key to achieving gender equality by 2030 involves addressing conditions and stereotypes that are harmful to both girls and boys—and to intervene much earlier, in early adolescence, at least by age 10, rather than at age 15 which is now the norm.
Early adolescence is critical, the Bellagio group asserts, because “gender norms, attitudes and beliefs appear to solidify by age 15 or 16.”
The demographic dividend was a major factor behind the rise of the economic “tigers” of East Asia and even in Ireland’s economic boom of the 1990s.
There is now hope for something similar to propel the economies of sub-Saharan Africa, home to the fastest growing—and youngest—population in the world.