The World Bank’s annual report World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development published on September 19th surprises by its findings, particularly when reporting 4 million excess of female deaths worldwide: “4 million girls and women are missing in developing countries as compared with their counterparts in developed countries” said Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank. 4 million is a lot! This is roughly the equivalent of the population of Los Angeles going missing each year!
40% of these 4 million women and girls are just never born because they are female fetuses (e.g gender-selective abortion now practiced in many parts of the world, including Europe). Over a third of these 4 million women continue to die prematurely with respect to men during their reproductive years.
Addressing the fundamental gender inequalities highlighted in the report is identified as key in ensuring a path to development. The recommendations of the report include measures improving education and involvement of women in decision-making at various levels of the society. Such measures are quantitatively shown to benefit the development of the society as a whole over time. In today’s highly competitive globalized world, besides being wrong, gender inequality and the neglect of the potential of 50% of the population is simply bad economics.