Women labour boosting Tanzania’s economic growth despite more men owning more land

  • Tanzania’s population is made up of more women
  • The female labour participation rose from 67 per cent in 2000 to 80 per cent in 2019
  • Data shows more men are owning land compared to women

Tanzania’s economy is growing steadily. It has levitated to a lower-middle-income status and built a relatively strong foundation to head towards an industrial driven economy.

Over time, Tanzania has acknowledged the vitality of fairness and equity. This narrative has expanded within the economic veins of the developing nation.

It is essential to recognize the joint effort brought by the government of Tanzania to close the gender gap within all essential areas of life.

The newly published 17th Tanzania Economic Update World Bank, “Empowering Women: Expanding Access to Assets and Economic Opportunities”, brings an exciting narrative of the journey and state of gender within economic lines.

Tanzania’s population stretches towards 60 million people, with around 30 million women and at least 29 million men.

The same report brought a forecast of the nation’s growth, arguing that – the economy would grow by up to 55 per cent.

Undoubtedly, across communities globally and in the region—women play an essential and pivotal role in fueling agricultural production, rural economy, household-level nutrition and reduction of rural poverty (African Development Bank).

Women in economy

It is vital to notice the vast effort placed by Tanzania towards closing the gender gap.

On a broader scale, the United Nations argued that sub-Saharan Africa loses US$95 billion yearly because of the gender gap in the labour market.

Multiple entities are recording the contribution of women to the Tanzania economy, including the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The NBS argue that 65 per cent of farmers are women and women head 33 per cent of households; political processes that promote women are mounting up over the decades.

Around 36 per cent of the national parliamentarians are women—however, legislative and financial barriers, as well as gender norms, hinder advancement.

On the other side of the fence, World Bank argues that Tanzania has made vital strides in expanding women’s economic opportunities over the past two decades.

“The female labour-force participation rate rose from 67 per cent in 2000 to 80 per cent in 2019, well above the average of 63 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa and among the highest rates on the continent.” World Bank report argues.

As Tanzania doubles down on improving the education sector and skills take up, ripples are observed in other related fields, employment.

Tanzanian women have now compensated employees, and the ratio of women to men in jobs paying wages and salaries rose from 0:35:1 in 2000 to 0;64:1 in 2019, while the share of women engaged in unpaid agricultural work fell from 78 per cent in 2004-05 to 64 per cent in 2015-16.

Nearly essential steps taken by Tanzania to advance economically require a clear gendered lens to bring equitable results. The latter can range from poverty reduction to improving labour opportunities.

NBS pointed out that women account for 70 per cent of the food production but face challenges such as lack of access to credit and skills development, control of productive resources and a high rate of domestic violence.

“The plots of women farmers are on average 40 per cent smaller than those of men and have lower yields; women have fewer hours to devote to farming and are less likely to hire labour or invest in high-value crops due to limited financial resources,” The NBS argued.

The World Bank report exposed several constraints regarding women’s progress in crucial aspects of life.

The Bank noted that, by addressing the constraints, Tanzania stands to improve the economic development efforts and reduce poverty.

“Our analysis shows there are enormous benefits to be gained from bridging the gender gap in agricultural productivity, eliminating the gender wage gap, and strengthening women’s land tenure security, and Tanzania needs to consider these urgently,” said Mara Warwick World Bank Country Director.

It is of paramount importance to empower women economically to expand the strength of Tanzania.

Considering more than 80 per cent of active women in Tanzania are engaged in agricultural activities and produce up to 70 per cent of the nation’s food, strategic equity programmes are essential.

Multiple think tanks, including Washington based Brookings, argued for gender equality in the labour market because it is essential in promoting good economics.

Examining poverty numbers closely, Tanzania can close the gender gap economically. The 2019 Tanzania mainland poverty assessment noted that –poverty decreased by eight percentage points in 10 years, down from 344 per cent in 2007 to 26.4 per cent in 2018. Hence, there is a need for structural transformation to keep the trend equitable and sustainable.

What do numbers say

The economic update report depicted how women face severe constraints related to access to land, labour and productive assets.

“About 25 per cent of men are sole owners of the land, versus just 8 per cent of women, while about 7 per cent of women are sole homeowners, compared to 26 per cent of men. Tanzania’s land ownership and homeownership rates are below average for sub-Saharan Africa,” the report noted.

Further, it argued that the gender gap in agricultural productivity (an integral economic sector to Tanzania) is estimated at 20 – 30 per cent, and a full 97 per cent of the gap is explained by women’s diminished access to male family labour. In contrast, the remaining per cent reflects lower access to agricultural inputs and pesticides.

Shielding women from economic exploitation is essential for the health of a Tanzanian shilling. Events of unpaid land unfairly compensated labour, especially in the informal sector, are sucking the life out communities’ economies.

Having financial inclusion programmes and training are crucial to economic empowerment. Over the past five years, Tanzania has emerged with creative programmes to empower women, such as Mwanamke wa Nguvu, Superwoman and Fursa.

Tanzania must strengthen land ownership to women as it is essential for investment, incentive and security for accessing financial instruments—particularly business loans.

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Padili Mikomangwa is an environmentalist based in Tanzania. . He is passionate about helping communities be aware of critical issues cutting across, environmental economics and natural resources management. He holds a bachelors degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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