WB moots PPPs for gender parity

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By 2017-11-20

By Zohara Ghaffoor

The World Bank (WB) has proposed Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a win-win solution to Sri Lanka's gender parity in employment rates, insisting that it will enable employers to help women realize their true economic potential.

"When maternity provision, child- care and other benefits are taken into consideration, the private sector has to bear the cost, thereby creating an uneven playing field. This leaves the private sector to decide whether it is cheaper to hire a woman or a man. PPPs will create a win-win situation," said WB Group, International Finance Corporation, Programme Manager, Carmen Niethammer. She made these comments while speaking at a panel discussion and policy dialogue on Women's Potential in Sri Lanka's Labour Force on Friday.
According to the World Bank, Sri Lanka has the 14th largest gender gap in Labour Force Participation (LFP) globally, with 36% LFP rate from women as opposed to 75% LFP rate from men in 2016. Young women are said to be the highest contributors to female unemployment with only 29% contributing to the economy from the 15 to 29 age group in 2016. While noting that private sector initiatives ended up paying for the above issues most of the time without a cost benefit, Niethammer said, "Unfortunately , there are still a lot of countries that are trying to do the best for women's labour force participation but are not necessarily doing it in the best possible way."

Highlighting that private and public partners can come together in addressing sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the workplace, public transport and public vicinities, Niethammer noted that the private sector......had a huge incentive to be involved, because if a women was sexually harassed at work or in the bus she was not going to give her 100% present at work and if she was sexually harassed at work, the man will also not be productive at work.

She said, "When you calculate the cost in terms of what it really costs when a man or woman is not productive, the private sector needs to look at the situation from a cost – benefit point of view and thus contribute effectively to improve women's participation".
Commending the private sector for some of its leading practises, Niethammer expressed, "The private sector has figured out that to be the employer of choice, it needs to provide family-friendly policies and practices. It is more important in terms of retaining female as well as male talent and have policies and benefits in place to permit mothers and fathers to stay at work."

Providing an example of the initiative taken by MAS Holdings, Niethammer noted the Company set up a childcare centre in its MAS Kreeda Al Safi-Madaba plant in Jordan and found that absenteeism dropped by 9% and better retention rates were experienced due to women being happier to come to work.

She further noted that facilities such as breast feeding, lunch break with children made the daycare a profit centre for the Company. Niethammer said the initiative made the Company look better in the eyes of its clientele - both buyers and investors because they know the Company was treating its staff well.

International Finance Corporation, World Bank group, in its case study 'Tackling Childcare', cited the MAS Kreeda Al Saf, CEO, Farhan Ifram, as saying, "By establishing this childcare centre, we are solidifying our Company's reputation as a pioneer and employer of choice for women in rural areas since childcare is enabling more skilled women to enter the workforce. Our efforts have been recognized by the Government of Jordan and the ILO/IFC Better Work programme."

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