restricted access Health and economic growth: are there gendered effects?: Evidence from selected southern Africa development community region

Women’s economic participation has recently been at the centre of the debate on sustainable development. It is a widely held view that women have a strategic role in poverty reduction dynamics. The argument is that when women have equal access to education and full participation in business and economic decision-making, they are a significant driving force against poverty. Women economic empowerment increases earning power which in its turn raises household incomes while reducing fertility rates that triggers the population transition dynamics. This is eventually translated into well-being of children, reducing poverty of future generations. In fact currently World Bank Strategy to empower women among others includes the need to increase investment in women’s health. Recognising this issue, SADC region has developed a number of gender based health polices which are in line with regional and international commitments. As a result one of the key indicators of development in the region is now the state of women’s health. However overall health status has been an issue in SADC region, mostly due to HIV/AIDS infections and Tuberculosis. Globally SADC has the highest level of HIV prevalence and the most affected social group is women, between 15 and 24 years of age. Furthermore the review of literature indicates that much of what is known about the effects of health by gender in this region has been descriptive in nature. No previous study has empirically investigated the nature of these effects in this region. This chapter aims to fill this gap. This paper empirically investigates the link between improvements on health disaggregated by gender on productivity and hence economic growth in the SADC region between 1970 and 2010. Health improvement is measured by life expectancy and economic growth is measured by real GDP per capita at 2005 constant prices and data is taken from the WDI and PWT. Using Fixed Effect (FE) the findings presented in this analysis suggests that improvements in both female and male health can significantly improve economic growth in this region. However an increase in male health significantly raises economic growth greater than that of females. These effects are robust to changes in model specification. These findings may reflect women’s higher morbidity rates in the region compared to men in this region that might affect productivity. They also may reflect inequalities in accessing education or formal paid work that is required to trigger the population transition dynamics and eventually economic growth. These results imply the need of some policy adjustment in order to align all SADC gender policies particularly in education, employment and improvements in health in order to capitalize on the benefits of improvements on female health.