Our Perspective

      • Consumption consumes you | George Gray Molina

        10 Jan 2014

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        CASIMIRA SANCHEZ PREPARES PIECES OF GYM EQUIPMENT AT A PLANT IN MEXICO CITY. A UNDP PROGRAMME TO STRENGTHEN SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES INCREASED THEIR ACCESS TO NEW MARKET TECHNOLOGY. PHOTO: LUIS ACOSTA/AFP FOR UNDP

        F. Scott Fitzgerald used to say about alcohol: “First, you take the drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” The same thing could be said about consumerism as a way of achieving social status and recognition. First, let’s look at a few facts. Consumerism is the engine driving growth in Latin American economies. It represents 59 percent of the GDP in Brazil, 66 percent in Mexico, 69 percent in Chile, 77 percent in Honduras and 88 percent in the Dominican Republic — so more than two thirds of the economic growth in Brazil, Mexico and Chile over the past twelve months. Consumerism also led to a significant reduction in poverty and favored the emergence of the middle class in the region. Today, most of the population is no longer “poor” in the statistical sense of the term, but “vulnerable” as they work in precarious labour markets yet enjoy higher levels of income and purchasing power than before. Secondly, let’s look at some areas of concern. Consumption is intrinsically linked to high levels of liquidity, easy access to credit, and household debt. Household debt has increased throughout the region: According to Morgan Stanley, the ratio of household debt to income is 60 percent; inRead More

      • Political quotas for women: Myths & facts | Elizabeth Guerrero

        09 Dec 2013

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        Salvadorian parliamentarians celebrate the approval of the new law that addresses violence against women (Photo: El Salvador Legislative Assembly)

        Women still comprise only 21.4 percent of members of parliaments (MP) around the world. While Latin America has more than 24 percent of women MPs — one of the highest shares in the world — the region still has a long road to travel towards gender parity. The provision of quotas — an idea that began in Europe and has spread to other continents — has effectively been used to boost women’s political participation, adopted as a temporary measure to encourage political parties to nominate a minimum percentage of women. This may take place as a voluntary action by political parties or through law-driven measures which push parties to nominate a certain number of women candidates. Yet several myths remain: Myth 1: "Quotas contradict the principle of equality before the law" This argument is based on the assumption that men and women actually have the same opportunities to run for elections. But that simply does not reflect reality. In many countries women can vote, but they cannot be elected. Evidence shows that women and men do not share the same opportunities to be appointed candidates because women face a number of barriers to be nominated by political parties. Therefore, the ideaRead More

      • Why gender equality at work must be a top development priority | Jeni Klugman

        02 Dec 2013

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        A woman farming in Togo, where only men inherit land. (Photo: UNDP Togo)

        “The future is grim for us women smallholder farmers,” a group from Togo told the World we Want survey on future development goals. In keeping with local custom, they said, “Only men inherit land, although women do most of the work in fields. This keeps us dependent on men and shackles us in poverty.” Discriminatory laws represent one of many obstacles holding back women’s economic participation. Social norms, lack of autonomy, and limited access to assets all play a part, and the costs—particularly in poor and emerging countries—are steep. Gender gaps are pervasive across continents and sectors. Female farmers tend to have lower productivity, smaller plots, and grow less profitable crops. Female employees are more likely to work in temporary and part-time jobs, and less likely to be promoted. In Mexico and Honduras, women accounted for 70 percent of all layoffs during the global economic crisis. Across advanced economies, women earn 16 percent less than men, even in the same occupations, hold fewer senior positions, and account for fewer entrepreneurs. Closing these gender gaps could yield enormous dividends for development. Having as many women in the labor force as men (PDF) could boost economic growth by 5 percent in the UnitedRead More