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Tanzania Could Reap Huge Economic Benefits by Ending Child Marriage and Expanding Education for Girls, Says New World Bank Report

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Educating girls and ending child marriage could accelerate development progress and the reduction of poverty in Tanzania, according to a new report published by the World Bank. In contrast, the perpetuation of child marriage and the lack of education for girls would lead to lower earnings for women, substantial health risks, higher intimate partner violence, higher population growth, and higher poverty among other impacts.

Titled, “The Power of Investing in Girls,” the 11th Tanzania Economic Update released today shows that notwithstanding a declining trend, almost one in three girls still marry before the age of 18 in Tanzania, whether through formal or informal unions. Almost one in four girls have their first child before the age of 18. Partly because of this, the completion rate for secondary school for girls in the country remains very low.

Investing in girls’ education is not only an investment in the girl herself, but also in her children – the future generation – bringing substantial benefits to the wider society and the economy. The evidence in this report clearly shows the very high value to Tanzania of investing in girls and ending child marriage,” said Bella Bird, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi and Somalia.

One of the largest economic benefits from ending child marriage and educating girls would result from a reduction in population growth and thereby higher standards of living and lower poverty. Those benefits grow quickly over time. Ending child marriage could generate benefits of $5 billion (in purchasing power parity) per year by 2030 thanks to lower population growth.

Another large economic benefit of ending child marriage is in terms of earnings for women thanks to higher educational attainment for girls. “If women who had married as girls had been able to delay their marriage, their annual earnings today could have been higher by more than $600 million. Ending child marriage and educating girls is not only the right thing to do, it is also a smart investment,” said Quentin Wodon, World Bank Lead Economist and co-author of the report.

The risks of young children being stunted or dying by age five due to child marriage and teen pregnancies at a young age also have large economic costs. As young wives are more prone to suffer from violence from their partners, ending child marriage and educating girls could lead to a reduction in intimate partner violence. Finally, through its impact on reducing population growth, ending child marriage would decrease the pressure that providing basic services puts on the national budget. The savings could be invested to improve the quality of public services.

The boost for Tanzania’s economy that ending child marriage, preventing early childbearing, and investing in girls’ education would provide would help poverty reduction efforts, as high population growth makes it especially difficult for Tanzania to achieve sustained reductions in poverty over time.

Among key recommendations, the latest Economic Update calls for greater investment in girls’ education, providing economic opportunities for girls who are out of school and cannot go back to school, and imparting adolescent girls with life skills and reproductive health knowledge.

The latest Update presents a mixed economic performance in 2018. The National Bureau of Statistics did not release any quarterly GDP data for 2018, pending completion of a rebasing exercise. However, available data suggest signs of softening of the growth momentum in 2018, including stagnant exports and missing tax collection targets. Inflation has remained low, and the exchange rate has been relatively stable in real terms. The current account deficit has grown in recent months, though reserves remain strong at roughly six months of import cover. Budget execution is challenging, with slow implementation of development projects, a high level of central government payment arrears, and delayed refunds of value-added tax refunds.

While the Update shows the growth outlook is uncertain, the downside risks remain largely within government control. GDP growth projections are awaiting the forthcoming rebased GDP series. On the domestic front, key risks include delays in reforms to stimulate private investment and delays in execution of major public infrastructure projects. In addition, the external environment presents risks related to rising energy prices and tightening financial markets. To mitigate risks and accelerate growth that will create jobs for Tanzania’s young women and men, policy actions are urgently needed to relieve the pressure on businesses by paying old arrears and VAT refunds; accelerate implementation of key priority projects that have high impact on business growth and human development outcomes.

The 11th Tanzania Economic Update benefited from support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the Global Partnership for Education. The report is one of several country studies prepared by the World Bank following up on global and regional studies on the economic impacts of low educational attainment for girls and child marriage. A regional study for Africa was released at the African Union 2nd African Girls’ Summit to End Child Marriage at the end of November.

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Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The World Bank Group.

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