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  • Riley Revilla

When the Workplace has no Women, Afghanistan's Misogyny Will Backfire

Women's rights, including their right to work, have been impacted by the international conflicts of today. The Middle East is already known for curtailing the rights of its women relative to the standards of the West. However, due to the recent regime change in Afghanistan, women's rights to participate in the workplace have been especially trampled. This may cause more economic devastation than the Taliban anticipates. Let us examine the potential effects of the Taliban removing women from the workforce. 

To study the role that women occupy in the workforce, Ostry et al. in “Economic Gains from Gender Inclusion: New Mechanisms, New Evidence” use economic metrics to study the role women occupy in the workforce, and specifically to determine how much the market feels their loss. They find that improving gender equality in the workplace should increase the GDP by approximately ten to eighty percent depending on the former inequalities in labor force participation. They also find that women have such substantial complementary effects on male productivity that teams that include female participants would be significantly more productive than those composed of strictly men, all else being equal. Applying their findings to the markets in Afghanistan predicts that removing an entire gender from the workforce will have a larger effect than expected, as the Taliban is not just removing individuals, they will also decrease the productivity of the remaining men. The raw labor supply in Afghanistan will, of course, likely decrease as a result of women’s removal from the workforce. But to make matters worse, it would appear that the supply will be disproportionately affected by the removal of women as women have a complementary effect on the output of men.

Prior to the Taliban’s takeover, it appeared that female education and workplace progression were rising. Women were receiving incredible educations and advancements in the workplace. However, this progression was only allowed to a point and eventually stunted due to extreme ideological conservative values which led to restrictions based on the roles women were expected to play in society. These social pressures have caused extreme issues for women in Afghanistan and these effects have rolled into the era since the Taliban’s takeover. Since the takeover, education for women has been completely removed. Increasing regulations have sought to remove any access completely women may have to education and relegate them to almost complete dependence on the males around them. This is exemplified through restrictions even on how they may travel, which require male chaperones just to travel longer distances. But these restrictions have specific consequences on female employment, as women, especially young women, have now been restricted to employment that is primarily home-based. This has caused an especially difficult situation for households facing higher food prices in the face of this small supply of labor. 

The decreased presence of women in the workforce has many social consequences. According to the World Bank, increases in female income also improve child welfare rates. The ability of women to bring in income is integral to their independence from men, and by removing their ability to work, the Afghani government has fostered incredible dependence for women within their country. This dependence will ultimately have disastrous results for women trapped in physically dangerous scenarios, as they will be unable to have independence while they are financially dependent. This dependence has become increasingly suffocating in the face of other measures that the Taliban has begun to impose on the women within Afghanistan. Women’s rights are increasingly regulated as their access to publicly available benefits has been vastly reduced and details, including even their manner of dress, are now scrutinized. A cause for further concern is found as the Taliban is arbitrary in its application of their regulations, leading to more instability regarding women’s rights. This paints a dire picture of the societal and economic context in which women in this country have been left. 

Ultimately, all of these factors describe a situation in which the removal of women from the workforce has disastrous effects. The removal of women will decrease the productivity of remaining male workers, and ultimately create a social dependency of women upon men that is harmful to both the welfare of the children involved as well as the physical safety of the women within these countries. Therefore, countries that discriminate against working women will ultimately ruin their economy and be faced with dire social consequences.


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