Ending child marriages today could generate US$3 billion per year for Uganda by 2030, says a new report launched by the World Bank.
The new Uganda Economic Update released Tuesday at Kitante Hill School in Kampala and titled ‘Accelerating Uganda’s Development: Educating Girls and Ending Child Marriage and Early Childbearing’, indicates that the largest economic benefits from ending child marriage would result from a reduction in population growth and thereby higher standards of living and lower poverty.
Such a boost for Uganda’s economy would be beneficial given that the economy has been slowing down; at 4.5 percent per annum, the average rate of growth for the past five years is far lower than the rate of 7.0 percent or more achieved in the 1990s and early 2000s.
However, that notwithstanding and despite a declining trend, the World Bank says one in three girls still marry before the age of 18, through formal or informal unions, a situation that leads to lower educational attainment for girls and their children, higher population growth, substantial health risks, higher intimate partner violence, and lower earnings for women as well as higher poverty.
Further, the WB notes that the second largest economic cost of child marriage is related to low educational attainment for girls, which in turn leads to lack of good jobs and low expected earnings in adulthood for women. Today, if women who had married as girls had been able to delay their marriage, their annual earnings could have been higher by an estimated at US$500 million. This would reduce the pressure that providing basic services puts on the national budget, and the savings could be invested to improve the quality of public services.
“Almost three in ten girls have their first child before the age of 18. As a result, the completion rate for both lower and upper secondary school for Ugandan girls remains low,” the report says.
“The cost of child marriages does not fall solely to the girls and their babies but constitute an enormous lost opportunity for Ugandan society and the Ugandan economy. Educating girls and ending child marriages must be a top priority for any aspiring middle income country. Inaction is really not an option,” adds Christina Malmberg Calvo, the World Bank Country Manager in Uganda.
The 10th Uganda Economic Update benefited from support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the Global Partnership for Education. The report is one of several country studies prepared by the World Bank following up on a global study on the economic impacts of child marriage conducted in partnership with the International Center for Research on Women with additional funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Among key recommendations, the economic update calls for greater investment in girls’ education, providing economic opportunities for girls who are out of school and cannot go back to school, and imparting adolescent girls with life skills and reproductive health knowledge.