South Asia Development Forum
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Home to a fifth of mankind, and to almost half of the people living in poverty, South Asia is also a region of marked contrasts: from conflict-affected areas to vibrant democracies, from demographic bulges to aging societies, from energy crises to global companies. This series explores the challenges faced by a region whose fate is critical to the success of global development in the early 21st century, and can also make a difference for global peace. The volumes in it organize in an accessible way findings from recent research and lessons of experience, across a range of development topics. The series is intended to present new ideas and to stimulate debate among practitioners, researchers, and all those interested in public policies. In doing so, it exposes the options faced by decision makers in the region and highlights the enormous potential of this fast-changing part of the world.
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From Jobs to Careers: Apparel Exports and Career Paths for Women in Developing Countries(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022) Frederick, Stacey ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, Raymond ; Vergara Bahena, Mexico A.It is well-established that bringing more women into the formal labor force is critical for economic development. One strategy often cited is further integrating developing countries into global trade, particularly global value chains (GVCs), to contribute to female labor market outcomes through the expansion of female-intensive industries. As a result, a big question frequently debated, is whether the apparel industry – which is the most female-intensive and globally engaged manufacturing industry – can be a key player in this regard. In recent decades, the apparel industry has shifted its production to low-wage developing countries, increasing the demand for women, closing male-female wage gaps, and bringing women into the formal labor force. Indeed, the benefits of apparel exports have reached the female population, but is an apparel-led export strategy sufficient to induce the transition from jobs to careers? This Report provides an answer by focusing on seven countries where the apparel industry plays an important role in its export basket – Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam. The Report’s key finding is that countries should take advantage of the apparel industry as a launching platform to overcome the fixed costs of introducing more women into the labor market. However, for this approach to work, there needs to be complementary policies that tackle the barriers that hinder women in their pursuit of long-term participation in the labor force and better-paid occupations. A hope is to shift the paradigm of how we think of women’s participation in the labor force by demonstrating the importance of the distinction between jobs and careers. Although aspirations towards careers are achieved in different ways, understanding how progress is being made in each country towards a more equitable life between men and women will pave the way for a better route forward.
Regional Investment Pioneers in South Asia: The Payoff of Knowing Your Neighbors(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-11-17) Kathuria, Sanjay ; Yatawara, Ravindra A. ; Zhu, Xiao’ouRegional economic engagement within South Asia may gain increasing importance owing to several factors that are currently in play, including strategies to diversify global value chains and locate such value chains nearer home. These developments offer South Asia a chance to enhance its low levels of regional economic engagement and capitalize on significant unrealized development opportunities. This report shows that examining intraregional investment and knowledge connectivity enhances our understanding of the low levels of intraregional trade and limited regional value chains in South Asia. Creating a new and unique data set for South Asian investment, it provides a detailed and nuanced understanding of the drivers of outward investment, both regional and global, for South Asian firms. “Regional Investment Pioneers in South Asia” provides key considerations for policy makers in South Asia, which remain particularly relevant in the aftermath of the pandemic. First, it makes a case for regulatory relaxation of outward FDI regimes, based on new micro foundations, grounded in value chains. Second, it spells out details of smart inward FDI promotion techniques and investment facilitation. Third, it identifies distinct cross-border information-enhancing and network development activities. Fourth, it suggests that digital connectivity and continued interventions in reducing trade costs are warranted to increase investment as well as trade flows. There is particular scope to build on the digitalization initiatives in trade and investment facilitation taken during the pandemic. “Regional Investment Pioneers in South Asia” follows on, and is complementary to, the earlier World Bank report, “A Glass Half Full: the Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia.”
Exports to Jobs: Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2019-02-24) Artuc, Erhan ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Robertson, Raymond ; Samaan, DanielSouth Asia’s economy has grown rapidly, and the region has made a significant reduction in poverty. However, the available jobs for the growing working population remain limited. Policy makers are contending with lingering concerns about jobless growth and poor job quality. Exports to Jobs: Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia posits that exports, could bring higher wages and better jobs to South Asia. We use a new methodology to estimate the potential impact from higher South Asian exports per worker on wages and employment. We find that increasing exports per worker would result in higher wages, mostly for the better-off groups—like the better-educated workers, men, and the more-experienced workers—although the less-skilled and rural workers would benefit from new job opportunities outside of the informal sector. Our report shows that to spread the benefits from higher exports widely, policies are needed to raise skills and get certain groups, such as women and youth, into more and better jobs. Complementary measures include removing trade barriers and investing in infrastructure, and increasing the ability of workers to find higher-paying jobs. Together, these actions would help South Asian countries spread the gains from being closely integrated into the global economy through exporting. This book, which is the product of a partnership between the International Labour Organization and the World Bank, contributes to our understanding of the impact that growing exports can have on increasing well-being, and it bridges the gap between academic research and policy making.
A Glass Half Full: The Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2018-09-19) Kathuria, Sanjay ; Kathuria, SanjayTrade has played a critical role in global poverty reduction. In harnessing the potential of trade, some of the most successful countries have developed strong trade relationships with their neighbors. However, many South Asian countries have trade regimes that often offset the positive impact of geography and proximity. This report documents systematically the gaps between current and potential trade in South Asia and addresses important specific barriers that have held trade back. These barriers include tariffs and paratariffs, real and perceived nontariff barriers, connectivity costs, and the broader trust deficit. This policy-focused report unpacks these critical barriers to effective trade integration in South Asia through four in-depth studies that produce new, detailed, on-the-ground knowledge. Three of the studies are based on extensive stakeholder consultations. Two also rely on tailored surveys. The fourth study, on tariffs, benefits from new data on paratariffs. The report also marshals new evidence showing how trading regimes in South Asia discriminate against each other. Given the South Asian context, incremental, yet concrete steps aimed at tapping the potential of deeper integration are appropriate. The report has been drafted in this spirit. It offers precise, actionable policy recommendations that could help achieve measurable progress in key areas of trade and integration that would be to the advantage of all countries in the region.