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close this book Development in practice: Toward Gender Equality
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View the document Acknowledgments
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Open this folder and view contents Chapter two
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THE WORLD BANK A partner in strengthening economies and expanding markets to improve the quality of life for people everywhere, especially the poorest

Gender equality is not only a matter of social justice but also good economics. It is of foremost importance to women's wellbeing and development. Discrimination means losses in productivity and lower welfare of women, their families, and society at large.

Although the gender gap is narrowing in education, health, and many other areas, women are still less educated than men, work more hours, and are paid less. The reasons why gender disparities persist are complex, having to do with social and institutional norms, relationships within households, and even lack of information about the benefits of educating and employing women. Despite the weight of social and cultural factors, public policy can influence women's status and well-being. Governments have a leading role in widening the opportunities available to women and extending the services that are vitally important to them.

This report outlines what governments and development agencies can do to work toward greater gender equality- one of the best investments a society can make. Public policy can affect investments in health, education, and infrastructure through laws and regulations. It can also affect land ownership, financial services, and access to employment. Not least important, public policies can affect macroeconomic performance and create a favorable climate for economic development.