By Zofeen Ebrahim
TOKYO, Oct 13 (TerraViva) – World Bank president Jim Yong Kim first used the phrase, and then the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde followed. Or was it the other way round? Whatever the case, ‘inclusive growth’ will be the new development mantra, adding to the already jargon-infested discourse of the world of the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.
But as Masaki Inaba of the Ugoku/Ugokasu, and Asko Osaki of Gender Action Platform, two Japanese non-governmentalorganisations, put it, ‘inclusive growth’ needs to be defined so that it does not just stay a buzzword.
At present, over one billion people live in extreme poverty and 200 million are unemployed. The richest one percent of the world’s population owns 40 percent of global assets, while the bottom half of the world’s population have just one percent of global wealth concentration. Against this backdrop, it is time to look beyond economic growth and turn it into economic justice, development experts said.
This is part of the rethinking of the limited definitions and measures of development as the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) nears. Debate continues on what comes after that, and including calls for a review of the phase ‘MDGs’ itself.
If growth and modernisation are linked to development but uses wealth as a determinant, like it has happened in China, ‘development’ would be temporary and come at the cost of inequality, Lau Kin Chi from the Lingnan University in Hong Kong, pointed out.
She works with rural communities, where the majority of the Chinese reside, encouraging ecological development that builds on human relations and their links to nature, which had collapsed in the rat race towards modernisation.
“We have diverse experiences in the inclusive economy at the field level. It is time to convey to the governments and the donor countries that these should be turned into strategies and eventually become government policy for social security, better employment,” said Inaba.
Indeed, Indian educationist Vinod Raina says that when social movements go into policy framework and this is combined with health, education and food security, it contributes to an environment where people can live with dignity.
He gave the example of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA), a job guarantee scheme in India. It provides legal guarantee for 100 days of employment in every financial year to a person in rural household who is willing to take up unskilled manual work at a wage of 2.27 U.S. dollars per day in 2009. “It was launched in 2006 in 200 poorest of the 630 districts, but became so successful that it quickly spread to cover all the districts,” Raina said. “Most rural development work is now carried out by villagers and it has also put a stop to migration.”
Indian civil society – there are some two million non-government organisations in the country – has not been overly enthusiastic about owning the MDGs since the targets were designed by donor countries and premised on rich countries’ commitment to set aside 0.7 percent of their GDP for aid to poor countries. This commitment, however, was never kept to, especially as economic woes put pressure on donor governments’ budgets.
India, instead, showed that using the rights framework worked because it ensured that the country’s high growth rate could be used to translate into qualitative changes in development internally.
In recent years, added Raina, several rights campaigns have emerged and a number have made significant impact. These include campaigns around the right to information, which has helped curb corruption and brought about greater transparency. The right to work was passed in 2005, the right to forest dwellers to forests passed in 2006, and the right to education in 2009. The right to food and land is already in the Parliament, while the right to health is being discussed. “These are rights which are not being addressed by the MDGs,” said Raina, the key architect of the Right to Education Act.
Osaki, for her part, looked at inclusive growth with a gender lens: “The macro economy is not gender neutral; in fact it is gender blind. It means the gender division of labour is ignored, as is unpaid work.”
Work done at home – laundry, cleaning, cooking, the care of children, elderly and the sick and disabled, and taking care of the natural environment – is mostly carried out by women and young girls, and remains unpaid. This feminisation of care work results in feminisation of poverty. “It takes energy and time and negatively affects the empowerment of women,” Osaki pointed out.
The same work, when outsourced, becomes paid. However, contended Osaki, they are still lowly paid jobs when done by migrant women, whose labour is mean to economically empower the women employers in the households they work in.
In that context, she emphasised, there continued to be a need to value women’s contributions, to have unpaid care work taken account in macro-economic policymaking, and to in effect revalue such work as paid work. (END)