Economic transformation can offer African women access to ‘higher-paying’ jobs

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The transition to a green economy is expected to create many new jobs around the world, including in sub-Saharan Africa, a new report has found. The authors also say the economic transformation will offer women access to higher-paying and more stable jobs.

The study, a product of cross-institutional collaboration between the African Natural Resources Center of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and UN Women’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa said, this is possible “only if” countries adopt strong enabling policies and programmes.

Titled Green Jobs for Women in Africa, the report presents findings that apply a gender lens to job creation in the green transition in Sub-Saharan Africa. It noted that the green economy transition is attracting attention in policy circles but its potential gender impact has been less discussed.

The policy brief provides evidence to inform policy advocacy and reform at the regional and national levels in the near future. It also assesses opportunities for women’s participation in green jobs in key sectors driving growth in African economies and identifies policy solutions to overcome them and promote job opportunities for women, including through concrete policy recommendations.

The findings of the study show that although women are well-positioned to benefit from primary-level jobs that will be created, they are currently overwhelmingly concentrated in sectors that are likely to create “more low-end types of green job opportunities than high-value green jobs.”

“Most sectors will create a combination of well-paid, high-skilled green jobs and low-end jobs with poor working conditions, remuneration, and stability. For the most part, women’s participation is lower in those sectors where the highest number of ‘good’ green jobs will be created (solar and wind energy, transportation, and construction), and higher in those that will create low-end jobs (such as the greening of conventional agriculture, forestry or waste),” the report said.

Among the major constraints women face are gender segregation in education and employment, lack of access to formal-sector work, endemic financing gaps, as well as social norms that leave women shouldering the bulk of unpaid care work, the report said.

Further findings show that women face a number of barriers that may limit their full access to green jobs in the coming years. Some barriers to women’s participation in green jobs are sector-specific, such as social norms that deem construction jobs inappropriate for women while others permeate all sectors.

Oulimata Sarr, UN Women’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said “Some of the obstacles that women face to access green jobs in energy, infrastructure or the circular economy are rooted in social norms and changing those takes time.”

“We are at an accelerating moment. We need to act now to ensure that the transition to the green economy in the region does not leave women and girls behind,” she said in a statement shared with PREMIUM TIMES.

“The transition to the green economy offers unique opportunities to reduce gender inequalities in the labour market in sub-Saharan Africa,” the report noted.

Vanessa Ushie, Acting Director of the African Natural Resources Centre of the African Development Bank, said: “Women play a vital role in managing Africa’s natural capital assets and building climate resilience in our local communities.

“Carbon credits provide an opportunity to reward women for the critical role that they play in protecting our mangroves, forests and other ecosystems essential for carbon sequestration and environmental sustainability across Africa.”

The report’s recommendations include the provision of skills coupled with other more ambitious interventions such as unpaid care services, removal of gender biases from national legislation or leveraging the opportunities offered by new green economic instruments like carbon credits to assign greater economic value to the unpaid work women do to mitigate climate change.

The policy brief is also recommended as useful to green economy experts and policymakers who seek a better understanding of the gender dimensions of the green economy and how to develop fair and gender-responsive green economy policies in sub-Saharan Africa.

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