A Taliban ban on women in the labor force could cost the economy $ 1 billion. | Business and financial news

A full recovery of the Afghan economy will not happen without female participation, according to a new UNDP report.

By Bloomberg

The Taliban’s efforts to restrict women from working could immediately cost the Afghan economy up to $ 1 billion, or 5% of GDP, the United Nations Development Program said in a new report as the militant group seeks global help to avert a deeper crisis.

The UN report painted a bleak picture of Afghanistan’s economy, which is under pressure with rising inflation and a sustained cash crunch. Women account for 20% of the country’s workforce, and preventing them from working can shave half a billion dollars from household consumption alone, it says.

Over the weekend, Taliban’s acting prime minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan sought global help to prevent a further crisis and gave assurances that women’s rights would be protected based on sharia law under which they can study and work. While Hassan is not the first official from the new Afghan government to seek help, his administration has not given clear instructions on how they will support women.

The UN report found that the militant group had asked all female government employees to stay home and banned most girls from going to school after they came to power in August. Only a small number of women in essential services such as nursing have been asked to resume work.

“I would very clearly say that there is no real full recovery of the Afghan economy without female participation,” Abdallah al Dardari, the leader of the UNDP, said in an interview. “Our initial results show that the contribution of educated women to Afghan productivity is higher than that of men with the same level of education.”

Restricting women from social life, including employment, adds more insecurity to Afghanistan as it struggles with a sudden freeze on international aid, which contributes as much as 40% of the country’s GDP and 80% of budget spending, the report said. The country’s GDP will fall by 20% within a year, and the fall could accelerate to 30% in the following years, it added.

Over $ 9 billion in Afghanistan’s reserves abroad remains frozen by the United States and its Western allies due to concerns over the Taliban’s continued links with terrorism, human rights violations and the lack of an inclusive government. The Taliban has been constantly asking for these funds to be released – a request repeated by acting Prime Minister Hassan.

Afghanistan would need $ 6-8 billion in international subsidies annually to fund basic services, support growth and maintain peace-building efforts, Al Dardari said. The country would require an estimated $ 2 billion just to raise the income of those in extreme poverty to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe, he added.

The Taliban’s plea to the world to release assets and resume aid could help “in the very short term,” although the bigger problem is strengthening Afghanistan’s weak institutions, said Adnan Mazarei, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics. “De facto authorities are shooting themselves in the foot in many ways, including with restrictions on women and others.”

Here are some key facts and figures about women in Afghanistan:

  • The economic impact of educating a girl in Afghanistan is more than double that of educating a boy, according to the UN report.
  • The country was ranked 166 out of 167 countries on the UN Gender Development Index in 2019.
  • More than a quarter of the 400,000 officials in Afghanistan are women. They have been banned from working until sharia-related procedures are in place to ensure their safety.
  • Millions of women voted in the last election, and 89 of the 352 members of parliament were women.
  • In September, the Taliban uncovered a 53-member cabinet that did not include any women. In the previous government, there were 13 women ministers and deputy ministers.

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