Both candidates in Chile’s Dec. 2013 presidential runoff were women.
In the past quarter century, the level of women’s economic participation has steadily grown in Latin America. During the first decade of this century, women’s participation grew by 15 percent, contributing to an overall decline in income inequality and extreme poverty. The World Bank estimates that currently 14.6 percent of Latin Americans live in extreme poverty – but contrast that with the hypothetical 17.7 percent had fewer women entered the workforce. Given Latin America’s steady growth in the face of worldwide recession in the 2000s, there’s no reason not to expect more advances for women’s opportunities.
Women’s increased political participation has also helped increase economic opportunities for Latin American women. As more and more female presidents take and hold office, more women consider professional lives outside the home to be viable options. Powerful players such as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Argentina’s Christina Fernandez, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla, and others provide focal points for hopeful young Latinas. Perhaps surprisingly to some Americans, many Latin American countries are passing the U.S. in women’s participation in legislatures. Women make up at least 30 percent of the legislature in Cuba, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Argentina, Ecuador, and Guyana. At last count, women make up just 18.5 percent of the U.S. Congress.
Latin America continually ranks highly in female entrepreneurship. The region has great educational and business training opportunities for women, and women make up 50 percent of higher education graduates. In a new index recently released, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay were ranked highest in providing the best environments for female entrepreneurs. However, women still lag in access to financial services.
However, despite these great advances, there is still inequality, room for improvement, and significant challenges facing women in Latin America. According to the World Bank, women face a variety of threats at different stages in their life. The prevalence of violence between intimate partners is estimated to be between 20 and 50 percent of women. Violence against women is widespread – more than half of the countries ranked as “high” or “very high” in levels of femicide are in Latin America – with El Salvador ranked as the worst in the world.
Jordan ranks among the lowest countries in the world on the World Economic Forum’s measurement of women’s economic empowerment. This lack of economic empowerment tends to correspond to decreased political empowerment, with reduced levels of activities such as voting.
Although women represent over half of university graduates in Jordan, they constitute a paltry 16 percent of the workforce. More than 26 percent of Jordanian women with bachelor’s degrees remain unemployed, compared to just 9.1 percent of male graduates. However, women are finding ways to overcome barriers to their economic participation by starting their own businesses. The Jordan Times reported in February that 38% of all Jordanian entrepreneurs are women, exceeding the international average of women’s participation in the field.
Lina Hundaileh epitomizes this entrepreneurial spirit. After the German company where she worked closed down their Jordan office, Lina decided to create her own job by opening a chocolate factory. She was not deterred by her lack of experience in running a business or making chocolate. It did not faze her when others laughed at her plan. She was determined to succeed and did not view failure as an option. And she loved chocolate.
(Watch the video in Spanish.)
During late August 2013, CIPE program officer Brent Ruth and I had the opportunity to travel through Peru to meet with EmprendeAhora alumni who have become amazing entrepreneurs. The purpose of this trip was to conduct an evaluation of the impact these alumni are having in their regions; however, I never could have imagined the impact their stories would have on me.
It was extremely motivating to hear how these alumni, with a little help from the EmprendeAhora program, gained the confidence to believe in themselves and in the entrepreneurial initiatives they’d only dreamed of before. Even more impressive was that they were all interested in doing business with a purpose. For them it was as important to have a positive social impact—if not more important— as to make a profit.
In order to share the positive social impact the EmprendeAhora alumni are having in their regions, Brent and I filmed our interviews with the alumni we met with in Peru. Throughout this year CIPE will publish a series of videos. The first video in the series tells the story of 2008 alum Jorge Luis Cueva Ramírez, co-owner and manager of a retreat hotel, Casa Cumbray Hotel de Campo in La Libertad, Peru.
Celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week in Pakistan.
Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council.
According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11, out of labor force of 55 million people, over three million are unemployed or underemployed, and the official unemployment rate in urban areas is double that of rural areas.
Marred by an acute energy crisis, militancy, political instability and host of other issues, Pakistan’s annual GDP growth rate is stuck at little above three percent, while the population is increasing at a rate of over two percent per year. This means that every year, roughly two million people enter the labor force. If the current situation is unchanged, the unemployment rate in the country will rise precipitously in the years to come.
According to the Planning Commission of Pakistan, providing jobs to the unemployed — both existing and those entering the labor market every year — requires an annual GDP growth rate of nine percent. Given the fact that both industrial and agricultural sectors are observing negative growth in real terms, and largely uneducated youth cannot be absorbed into the relatively well performing services sector, there seems no way the government will be able to curb this ever-increasing unemployed population.
One of the ways out of this otherwise gloomy national economic picture is to promote youth entrepreneurship. For a society like Pakistan, youth entrepreneurship is a new concept, and will require some serious efforts for promotion to an extent where it will start contributing to annual GDP growth and for extending decent employment opportunities to the youth.
Azerbaijani students attending a two-day seminar on entrepreneurship December 27-28 respond to the question, “who believes that they could start their own business?”
Forty percent of Azerbaijan’s population is under the age of 25, but less than a third of Azerbaijani youth are employed. This is partly due to economic policies that have restricted the private sector, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, leaving many young people to regard the government as their only path to employment. Topics such as free market economics, democratic governance, and entrepreneurship are largely absent from university curricula, and many young Azerbaijanis are not even aware that starting their own business is even a possibility, let alone a viable career option.
Since 2011, CIPE together with the Entrepreneurship Development Foundation (EDF) and its partner the Baku Education Information Center (BEIC) have trained 92 young Azerbaijanis on economics and business topics – and this number will be more than doubled as the training programs are scaled up in 2014-2015.
Participants, ranging in age from recent university graduates to mid-career professionals, attended weekly seminars over a ten-week span, tailored to the local context, based on CIPE’s Development Institute materials which were designed to improve young people’s understanding of the core democratic values underpinning entrepreneurship and the functions of a free market economy.
By Maggie Bohlander and Ricky Chen
With every holiday season, we have witnessed that annual ritual of families and friends gathering to watch those heartwarming yuletide films, Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. One that may not get so much play time is John Landis’s Trading Places, a dark 1983 social comedy starring Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Dan Aykroyd.
In the film, two ageing millionaires, the Duke brothers, engage in a bet over whether — given the right environment and upbringing — any disadvantaged person can blend in as a member of America’s upper echelon. Or whether, on the other hand, given the wrong circumstances, a member of the 1 percent can fall off the social ladder as easily as the disadvantaged can climb it. This is the timeless debate: nature vs. nurture.
The same debate plays out in entrepreneurship. Are entrepreneurs born or are they made? Why do some countries boast many startups and small- and medium-sized businesses while others do not?
Entrepreneurship is increasingly touted as a key ingredient to economic growth, job creation, and expanding opportunity, particularly for youth and women, in the Middle East and North Africa region. As a result, the number of initiatives supporting entrepreneurship in the region has increased exponentially, particularly following the Arab Spring.