Chapter 9D. Mali

Kalpana Kochhar, Sonali Jain-Chandra, and Monique Newiak
Published Date:
February 2017
  • ShareShare
Show Summary Details
John Hooley

Mali has one of the highest levels of gender inequality in the world. The World Economic Forum ranks Mali 138th out of 142 countries for gender equality, and its score has worsened over the past decade. The United Nations ranks Mali 151st out of 155 countries on its Gender Inequality Index, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks it 105th out of 108 countries on its measure of discrimination against women in social institutions. And on all three measures, Mali scores significantly worse than the average for Muslim-majority countries, sub-Saharan Africa, and low-income countries overall (Figure 9.12).

Figure 9.12.Gender Inequality in Mali

The major macroeconomic gender-related issue in Mali is underrepresentation in the labor market. In 2015, female labor force participation was only 35 percent, about half that of sub-Saharan Africa as a whole (Figure 9.13, panel 1). And the gap with men is also more than twice as big as in the rest of Africa (Figure 9.13, panel 2). Alarmingly, this gap has actually increased over the past decade as rates of labor force participation have risen for men but stagnated for women. Moreover, once in employment, women are more likely to be employed on a temporary basis or as apprentices and less likely to be firm owners or managers (Figure 9.13, panel 3).

Figure 9.13.Labor Force Participation in Mali

Low participation by women in the labor force is holding back economic growth in Mali (see Chapter 3 about the growing evidence of a positive link between female labor force participation rates and economic growth). Failure to tap such a large number of potentially productive workers is a huge waste of resources and is particularly lamentable for a country as poor as Mali.

Two of the most binding constraints in terms of greater female labor market access relate to education and demography (Figure 9.14). Enrollment in education is low for women (only 64 percent receive primary schooling) and significantly lower than for men (for example, twice as many men as women go to university), and women who do enroll in school are less likely to complete their education.

Figure 9.14.Educational Enrollment in Mali

Literacy rates are also extremely low in general and are significantly lower for females than males (25 percent versus 43 percent). Mali’s fertility rate is among the highest in the world, at 6.7 births a woman. High fertility rates and gender imbalances are mutually reinforcing drivers of Mali’s poverty dynamics. Having a large number of children affects women’s health and productive capacity as well as the amount of time they can devote to looking for and engaging in employment (Figure 9.15).

Figure 9.15.Fertility and Labor Force Participation


Source: International Labour Organization.

Policymakers aiming to improve women’s access to the labor market should prioritize measures that are also likely to have the biggest macroeconomic impact. Policies should not only help alleviate gender imbalances but also tackle the challenges posed by rapid population growth and in particular by poor economic diversification. Managing the fertility rate—for example, through more accessible contraception—and legal reforms that empower women within the household must be priorities. Policies targeting increased female access to education should take into account the types of skills likely to be in short supply in Mali in an economy with an expanded manufacturing and services sector. Rural areas, where economic diversification is lowest and fertility and gender inequality are highest, should be a key focus.

    Other Resources Citing This Publication