La France reconnaît l’usage de la torture en Algérie durant l’occupation coloniale

Christine Lagarde: Ending Harassment Helps the Economy

By Christine LagardeCorinne Delechat, and Monique Newiak

This International Women’s Day is bringing new calls to #pressforprogress on gender parity. Giving women and girls the opportunity to succeed is not only the right thing to do—it can also transform societies and economies.

Unlocking this transformative potential means pushing for more equal opportunities: for example, equality in legal rights for men and women, and equality in access to education, health, and finance. Just as important is the fundamental issue of ensuring a safe environment for all, including protection against harassment.

Our message is clear: Providing legal protection against sexual harassment creates an environment in which women are more likely to be economically and financially active.

In fact, new IMF staff research “What is Driving Women’s Financial Inclusion Across Countries?” finds a link between financial access and protection against harassment. We look at this connection empirically in surveys of 1,000 individuals in each of more than 140 countries.

Legal safety and financial inclusion

Women are less likely than men to gain access to financial services. That is especially so in emerging and developing markets, where financial inclusion scores are about 14 percent lower for women than for men.

Our research therefore looked into what drives access to financial services for women in particular. We found that women who live in countries with stronger protection against harassment, including at work, are more likely to open a bank account, borrow and save, and make use of financial services such as mobile payments.

These links are strong. Financial access for the average woman living in an emerging market or developing country is almost 16 percent deeper—that is, financial inclusion scores are higher—when legal protection is granted. For the average sub-Saharan African woman, the figure is almost 25 percent higher. Eliminating harassment and increasing women’s access to financial services can transform lives.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Promoting equality in opportunities can be an economic game changer. Increased financial access means more economic activity by women, including as entrepreneurs. This translates into higher economic growth and productivity, a more equal income distribution, higher profits for businesses, and greater economic stability.

Significant gaps in legal protection

Our study clearly shows that protecting women against harassment can ignite economic benefits across several dimensions. It is also a moral issue as highlighted by the #metoo movement, which has shown sexual harassment to be pervasive in many countries. Outrage has understandably erupted in many parts of the world.

These discussions are important and overdue, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. A detailed database and reports by the World Bank show that:

  • In 2017, almost 290 million adult women were not legally protected from sexual harassment, and more than 360 million women were not shielded from harassment in employment.
  • Legal gaps extend to the home. In almost a quarter of countries, there is no protection against domestic violence.
  • The lack of legal protection affects girls at an early age. In some countries the legal age of marriage is different for women than for men, and almost 100 million girls are not sufficiently protected legally from being married as a child.

Changing laws is not sufficient—it needs to be complemented by enforcement. Other policies also matter, and governments can act today. For example, fiscal policy can play a larger role through investments in transport safety and sanitation facilities for women and girls, and in support for victims of gender-based violence.

Continue the engagement

Together with our partners, the IMF is committed to working with governments around the world to identify policies that help women realize their potential. Aside from analytical work on the macroeconomics of gender, the IMF is expanding its country-level analysis and advice in this area. So far, we have studied and provided advice on gender equality issues in about one-sixth of our 189 member countries. The issues are multi-faceted, so the policies to address them should be too.

Just this week, we will publish a study on Nigeria showing that reducing gender inequality could increase real GDP growth by an average of 1¼ percentage points annually. We recommend a range of measures, such as strengthening and enforcing legal rights; increasing investment in infrastructure, health, and education; and policies to help reduce violence against women. Our advice to advanced economies also emphasizes the need for policies to help women participate in the economy, including well-designed parental leave, affordable and high-quality childcare, and tax policies that do not penalize secondary earners. And IMF-supported programs in Egypt and Niger include measures to empower women economically, such as investments in public nurseries and better public transport safety.

It is not enough to talk about gender equality on International Women’s Day. We need to continue to work to address this issue and keep it at the top of the policy agenda throughout the year.

We promise we will keep playing our part.



Another College, Another Strike?


Q.  What is the situation in negotiations between the District and the Union?
A.  We are at impasse, which is a status determined by the Public Employment Relations Board or PERB. It means that continuing normal negotiations would be futile.
Q.  How did we get here?
A.  The District presented the Union with a take-it-or-leave-it package in November. The Union was willing to negotiate items in the package on an individual basis but not to accept the entire package, so the District asked the Union to join it in declaring impasse. The Union declined, so the District unilaterally submitted to PERB a request for determination of impasse. PERB concurred.
Q.  Does that mean the District can now simply impose a new contract on the faculty?
A.  No. A public employer cannot impose any new conditions until the impasse resolution procedures have been 100% completed. And the impasse resolution procedures are clearly codified in the Educational Employment Relations Act, or EERA.
Q.   What do the impasse procedures entail?
A.   The first step is mediation between the District and the Union by a PERB-appointed mediator.
Q.  When will that happen?
A.  The timeline laid out in the EERA is very aggressive. The PERB-appointed mediator has contacted both the District and the Union, and we are scheduled to begin mediation in late January 2018.
Q.  How does mediation work?
A.  The EERA states that the mediator can meet with each party separately and both together. The goal of the mediator is to work toward an agreement that is acceptable to both sides.
Q.  What if that doesn’t happen? Can the mediator impose a resolution?
A.  Mediation is not binding on either party. But EERA states that if mediation does not result in agreement between the parties after 15 days, the mediator may move the process to the next step, called fact finding, as long as either the District or the Union requests it. We would certainly request it.
Q.  What is fact finding?
A.   Fact finding is a more rigorous mediation process. The District and the Union each appoint one member to the fact finding panel, which is chaired by a PERB-appointed mediator. The role of the fact-finding panel is to establish clear facts surrounding the open issues and to recommend a resolution.
Q.   What powers does the fact finding panel have?
A.   The fact finding panel can compel witness testimony and subpoena documents from the educational institution. Negotiations between the parties continues during fact-finding, but unless the parties reach a resolution or both parties agree to extend the timeline, the fact finding panel must make its final recommendations public within 30 days. But the panel cannot impose its recommendations.
Q.  What factors does the fact finding panel consider in reaching its recommended resolution?
A.   The EERA identifies several specific factors that the fact finding panel considers, including the local cost of living, comparable salaries at comparable colleges, current compensation levels, interests of the public, and the financial condition of the District.
Q.  What happens if fact finding doesn’t work? Is there binding arbitration, or is that it?
A.   There is no agreement between the District and the Union requiring binding arbitration, although EERA states that the parties can make such an agreement. Or, if both parties agree, non-binding mediation may continue, led by a PERB-appointed mediator or another mutually agreed upon mediator. But if one or both parties refuses mediation or binding arbitration, the impasse resolution process ends in a stalemate.
Q.  If we get through the entire process with no agreement, can the District then impose its final offer?
A.  Yes. After disclosing its final offer in a public hearing, the District may then impose it. The Union then has the right to conduct work stoppages, including a strike.