Home Business The key to unlocking the economic potential of the Western Balkans? Women.

The key to unlocking the economic potential of the Western Balkans? Women.

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Photo: Almin Zrno

Since arriving in the Western Balkans almost a year ago, I have had the pleasure of working with extraordinary people in this region, one of the most interesting and dynamic places in the world. Not a day goes by that I am not inspired by people like Marija Bosheva, who is study to become a scientist in a new laboratory for oenology and soil science in the FYR of Macedoniaor Valoriana Hasi, a young Kosovar who now works in ICT after take training for women in online work.

Stories like these remind me of the vast economic potential of this region, especially if countries here tap into one of their most valuable resources: women.

The economic benefits of gender inclusion are well known. For example, female entrepreneurs are 5% more likely to innovate than their male peers. Credit Suisse also find that Fortune 500 companies with female representation perform better than those without. Closing the gaps in labor market participation and entrepreneurship in the Western Balkans can significantly improve the region’s growth prospects.

So, with economic growth and job creation a high priority for every country in the Western Balkans, it is time for us to amplify our efforts to promote female entrepreneurship in the region – efforts that will lead to the creation of jobs, will boost women’s participation in the economy and create economic benefits for all.

Beyond their contribution to economic growth and job creation, research shows that businesses run by women employ more womenincreasing their control over resources, which, in turn, leads to improved health and education outcomes for children (among other socio-economic benefits). Increasing women’s economic participation – particularly in micro-small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) – can reduce poverty and boost inclusive growth, but female participation rates remain low in the Western Balkans.

Better information is an essential element in meeting this challenge. The lack of data on MSMEs, particularly on gender dynamics, makes it difficult to identify the main challenges facing women entrepreneurs, let alone design policies to address them.

The agenda for promoting women’s access to economic opportunities is broad and calls for actions that can overcome a multitude of barriers – from lack of access to affordable child care, to disincentives from government regulations. work, through limited access to registered property. Building an evidence base about the challenges and how we can address them is essential to help us design policy recommendations and initiatives that can overcome these specific challenges.

Every year, Western Balkan countries lose on average 18% of their total GDP due to gender inequality in the labor market. This figure exceeds the GDP of Serbia. A third of this loss is due to distortions in the choice of professions between men and women. The remaining two-thirds correspond to costs associated with labor market participation gaps. This is why a team from the World Bank is working to fill the knowledge gap on women’s access to economic opportunities, by introducing a series of surveys and initiatives in this area. Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR of MacedoniaAnd Serbia.

This work includes a survey of MSMEs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where only about 27 percent of SMEs are owned by women and only 9.3 percent of businesses are majority owned by women. in this country. The survey, designed to better understand the factors behind low rates of women’s economic participation, shows that women-led businesses in Bosnia and Herzegovina are concentrated in low-productivity sectors and tend to be smaller on average. These businesses do not use financial products and services as often as businesses run by men and face more barriers when they do.

Furthermore, although the country’s women-led MSMEs perform well on some financial capability indicators, they lag behind in increasing the profitability of their businesses, analyzing and developing opportunities. commercial and obtaining information and advice.

This work focuses on the main challenges, as well as recommendations to overcome them. Policy reforms and regulations can improve the business environment for women-led MSMEs. Increased financial education, including training on interacting with financial institutions and identifying appropriate financial products and services, can help ensure that women MSME owners and managers have access to necessary financial resources. Mentoring is also a crucial element in building management capacity and filling gaps in access to markets and networks.

While this survey – one of the first in-depth efforts to untangle the multidimensional constraints that hamper women-led businesses and fill key data gaps – is crucial, it is only an opening salvo in our fight to stimulate female entrepreneurship in the West. Balkans.

I look forward to another year of meeting champions like Marija and Valoriana – women who go beyond the data, showing us exactly how to turn this call to action into concrete, positive change.

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