|Toward Gender Equality: The Role of Public Policy (WB, 1995, 88 p.)|
In principle. public expenditures on social services and infrastructure are allocated on a gender-neutral basis; in practice men and women use these services differently. The resulting inequalities frequently perpetuate gender based differences in the accumulation and distribution of human capital within households. Public policy can address this problem by public expenditure priorities between secrets and within social sectors. Further it can support services and types of infrastructure that provide the highest social returns to public spending and are most heavily used by women and children.
EDUCATION. Estimations of the private returns to education for a number of countries (Psachatopoulos 1994) show that returns are at least equal for girls anti boys and are often higher for girls. Moreover, these rates do not capture the externalities generated by providing education to girls. The combination of private and social returns provides a clear signal for restructuring the allocations of public resources so as to support female education. Yet incidence analysis for a number of countries for which the necessary data are available reveals that educational subsidies per capita are higher for males than for females This difference is partly a result of the bias in allocation of subsidies toward higher levels of education, where female enrolled is lowest. Distortions in the allocation of public resources, such as the provision of mote money foe male-dominated tertiary institutions than for education that benefits girls, should be corrected by reallocating spending toward basic (primary and lower-secondary) schooling. Targeting these educational levels will have the maximum effect on girls' education and will yield higher social returns for society as a whole. In countries where universal basic education has been achieved and capital markets are unable to help households finance higher education, continuing subsidize higher education may be warranted. The rationale for the subsidy would be the productivity gains associated with a better-trained labor force.
To correct the bias against enrollment of girls more targeted interventions are need to influence household (see decisionmaking)
However reallocating public spending toward primary education and later toward higher levels is not sufficient to erase the gender gap in education The bias against enrolling girls in school is evident in both poor and no poor households and applies even at the primary level. To correct this bias, more targeted interventions are needed to influence household decision making
HEALTH. Correcting the gender bias in the public financing of health care IS a more complex process than correcting the bias in education. for two main reasons: the marked differences between the health needs of men and women, and the unreliability of household data on demand for health services in comparison with the data on demand tot education). However it is cleat that targeting health services to women implies provision of adequate funding for prenatal care. infant immunization, and mother and child health services. Because of the significant social benefits of providing women with appropriate health care, governments should make basic services ices that benefit women a top priority among, public health care expenditures.
There is a critical link between the public provision of health care and women's access to educational opportunities. A mother educated to seek preventive care and early treatment of illness for herself and her children (particularly girls) will reduce the cost of health care and in many cases. prevent premature death. Most of these highly cost-effective services can be supplied in rural clinics and health centers. Public spending should be so allocated as to ensure sufficient funding for these primary health facilities.
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICES. Agricultural extension and research services are widely considered vital to increasing and sustaining agricultural productivity. Many of these services are being provided by the private sector. but in some countries private services need public support, either because certain markets have not yet been developed or because the infrastructure is poorly developed. However. women farmers and small holders are often not served as effectively by public agricultural extension systems as ate and male farmers (FAO 1993). This disparity stems paltry from expend priorities within agricultural extension services. which concentrate resources on the crops and the technology controlled primarily by male commercial farmers. Reallocating public spending on agricultural extension and research services toward crops and technology raised by or used by small holders and women farmers could yield high social returns to public investment and could increase private returns by improving the skills and productivity of small agricultural producers.
Reallocating public spending on agricultural extension and research services toward crops and technology
Techniques for small holders and women farmers should take into account the need for quality and cost-effectiveness in public services, Economies of scale can be achieved if extension agents deal with groups of farmers instead of with individuals. This approach also provides a valuable forum for exchanging information. fostering peer learning. sharing expensive equipment. and pooling resources for- credit. Mobile trailing units and flexible hours that fit the crowded schedules of women farmers should also be considered. and more female extension agents should be trained to deal directly with female farmers. Such measures can be introduced without large additional resources if existing expenditures are carefully reallocated.
INFRASTRUCTURE, Public investment in economic and social infrastructure is vital in facilitated individual and household investment in physical and human capital. However, public expenditures on roads, water supply, and sanitation infrastructure frequently do not meet the needs of those who use the services most heavily. Women are the main users of water services, and it is essential to involve them in designing and implementing water projects. For example. in areas where transport is inadequate and water collection is a daily burden for women and children, the population tends to use the closest available facility rather than the safest one. In such cases. projects that ensure a safe water supply and take into account the specific needs and constraints of the users often have a significant effect on users' health. In two villages in Zaire where a piped water network was installed to provide safe drinking water, the median incidence of diarrhea was halved among children in households located less than a five-minute walk from a public standpipe. Spending allocations that favor public water supply and sanitation improve the general health of the population, save time for women and children. and increase school attendance. A study from Morocco chows that access to tap and well water instead of pond or river water raised school enrollment for both boys and girls (Khandker, Lavy, and Filer 1994).
Women are the main users of water services and it is essential to involve them in designing and implementing water projects.
Public spending on roads and energy-related facilities (for instance electrification or energy conservation) or other infrastructure is usually assumed to be gander neutral. Yet women and men use these facilities differently The Morocco study cited above found that the availability of electricity increased the rate for girls substantially more than for boys. The study also showed that the presence of a paved road increased by 40 percent the probability that girls would attend school and reduced by 5 percent their probability of dropping out. Overall, improved road conditions increased the probability of school attendance for girls by 32 percent and for boys by 20 percent.
Rural electrification can also ease the time constraints on women who must balance household and productive work. Lack of time is often a primary season for women's weak response to economic incentives. especially in rural areas. The case for making public investments in infrastructure would be stronger if gender differences in the use of projects and services, as well as the potential effect of such investment on productivity and social development. were taken into account.