Worlds apart - Unequal opportunities

15 December 2017
Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa, Chief Government Whip (L) and Mr. Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative Launching the State of the World Population Report 2017 on Thursday 23rd November. PHOTO: UNFPA/Martha Songa.

Only about half of the world’s women hold paid jobs and those who have them earn 77 per cent of what men get – according to the State of the World Population Report 2017, released by UNFPA. The Report, launched alongside a special policy paper on inequalities in Uganda and the State of the Uganda Population Report 2017 by Uganda’s Chief Government Whip, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa, shows that economic inequality correlates with inequalities in sexual and reproductive health.

Both reports underscore that people are the centre of sustainable development. Unless inequality is urgently tackled and the poorest women empowered to make their own decisions about their lives, countries could face unrest and threats to peace and development, says the State of the World Population Report, entitled, “Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality.”

From a local context, the State of Uganda Population Report details that the potential to increase production and spur an economic miracle lies in the power of young people, who are the biggest population - 78 percent of Ugandans are below the age of 30, and 52 percent are 15 years and below.

“To transform Uganda’s economy, we must consider the advantage we have. That is the bulge of Uganda’s young population,” said Hon. Nankabirwa.

And since the majority of youth live in rural areas and are employed in agriculture, the Uganda report recommends that investment should be made to increase productivity in agriculture competitiveness and export growth. Agriculture, is presented as the core sector of Uganda’s economic growth because it employs over 80 per cent of the labour force, contributing to 40 percent of the total export earnings (one of the biggest export earners) and 24 per cent of gross domestic product.

The point presented is that for Uganda to achieve lower middle income status by 2020, the Country’s economy must generate US $ 17 billion more on top of the projected US $ 25.7 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year. This means that Uganda needs to realize a per capita income of US $ 1,039; translating to about Shs 3.5 million earnings per Ugandan per year.

For this to happen, “export earnings must grow from the current US$ 2.3 billion to US$ 8 billion by 2020,” according to the Report.

Mr. Alain Sibenaler, UNFPA Representative, recommends strategic reforms: “Accelerate the transition from informal jobs to formal, decent work, focusing first on sectors with large concentrations of young people, poor, female workers – ensure access to quality education, unlock their access to credit and property ownership.”

This recommendation is underscored by the authors of the Uganda Population Report who point out that agriculture should be conducted as a business, but not as a tradition.

“Farmers have to be supported to practice commercial farming and not small scale production for only home consumption,” says John A Okelai, a Lecturer at Makerere University Business School and one of the authors of the report.

Coupled with investment in the manufacturing sector for value addition, a commercialized agricultural sector will attract more educated young people, as well as increase Uganda’s propensity to trade at international level.

The report shows that Uganda is on course to harness the demographic dividend, and policy makers are well aware of what it will take to deliver a lower middle income country by 2020, and subsequently a higher middle income status by 2040. The resonating message through the chapters is that: it is time to take action now to address the issues raised, otherwise the clock is ticking.

The State of Uganda Population Report was commissioned by the National Population Council, with support from the United Nations Population Fund. 

Story by Prossy Jonker Nakanjako