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Gender equality

Women are particularly disadvantaged in the informal sector

by Oliver Schmidt

In depth

Women are unequal to men in many places.

Women are unequal to men in many places.

Women tend to be more affected by the downsides of the informal economy than men.

They often have a lower level of education, even though in Africa, for example, the gender gap is closing somewhat among the younger generation. In many places, moreover, women are socially subordinate to men and thus do not get the same opportunities in economic life (see Mireille Kanyange at www.dandc.eu on inequality in Burundi).

Traditional gender roles, however, are also prevalent in the formal economy. In Africa’s financial industry, for example, most loan officers are still men. In countries like Nigeria, that is the case both for banks and mobile-money companies. Across Africa, mobile money is facilitating innovative and more inclusive financial services. Where a husband’s consent is requested for the approval of a loan, as is the case in Uganda, women are at a disadvantage nonetheless. Husbands often gain undue control over their wives’ finances. It rarely happens the other way around.

Examples like these show that gender inequalities need to be consciously addressed. Overall, the expansion of the formal sector is already benefiting women. In many ways, the women themselves are a major force of making change happen.

Oliver Schmidt is a senior project manager at the Bonn-based consultancy AFC (Agriculture and Finance Consultants). AFC is the competency centre for financial sector development of the GOPA Consulting Group, which provides advice to international development agencies.