Says development analyst Selim Jahan

Bangladesh should recognise women's unpaid domestic work and include it in estimating the gross domestic product, following the lead of India, Mexico and South Africa, said a development analyst yesterday.

Women give labour at home for rearing children and keeping an eye on their education or taking care of the elderly members of the family, said Selim Jahan, director of Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme.

“We can't comprehend how much they contribute to the economy -- these jobs are important. You would see how many tasks they are doing once you start taking into account their contribution into national income accounting.”

It should be valued and be part of the computation of the GDP, he said after delivering a speech styled 'Gender and Human Development in the 21st Century: Dialogue with the Next Generations'. The Institute of Development Studies Alumni Association Bangladesh organised the event at the British Council Dhaka.

Selim, a Bangladesh national, said many countries such as India, Mexico and South Africa estimate women's unpaid household work in the economy through a satellite account.  “There is a framework for this,” he said, adding that taking care of children and doing other household duties are very important for human development.

Selim, also a former director of Poverty Office in UNDP's Bureau for Development Policy in New York, said the human is the centre of all developments. 

“We may talk on issues like economic growth, infrastructure and many other things. But, ultimately, human development is the goal. Ensuring universal human rights is the basis of human development,” he said during the speech. 

He said economic growth is an important tool for human development; it is a necessary condition but not a sufficient one. “There will be no benefit unless opportunities are created for human development. There will be no benefit if growth is jobless, not environment friendly and does not ensure equality among men and women. Human development is for everyone.”

Citing agriculture and women's gender inequality in access to land, Selim said women do 80 percent of the agriculture work in developing countries but they own less than 10 percent land.  Furthermore, women get 24 percent lower wages than men in the world, he said.

He suggested changes in social values and norms for women's advancement and increased participation of women.

“It is also related to culture. Only policies will not help,” he said, adding that the relation between gender and human development should not be seen only from the economic, political and social point of views.

Selim also warned that rising conflict and violence in the world would deter women's advancement.

“Rising extremism and fundamentalism will have implication on gender because one of the main points of fundamentalism is that they will try to keep women within the households. If this values increases in any society, the first victim will be women.” He went on to call upon the youth to be global citizen, have a universal outlook, and be creative and free-thinkers.

Selim also stressed on women's education in the field of science, engineering, technology and mathematics.

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