Policy actions are needed to address these challenges in the context of an economy making the transition from low to middle income, Sudhir Shetty, Co-Director of the World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and Development, told media at the report launch in Hanoi on Thursday.

Policymakers in developing countries in general need to focus on gender gaps, he said.

The WDR 2012 shows that the one disparity that remains serious is the rate at which girls and women die relative to men in developing countries. Globally, excess female mortality after birth and “missing” girls at birth account for an estimated 3.9 million women each year in low and middle-income countries. About two-fifths are never born, due to a preference for sons, a sixth die in early childhood, and over a third die in their reproductive years.

The WDR 2012 calls for action in four areas, namely addressing human capital issues, such as excessive mortality of girls and women and gender gaps in education where these persist; closing income and productivity gaps between women and men; giving women a greater voice within households and societies; and limiting the perpetuation of gender inequality across generations.

It recommends that to ensure progress on gender equality is sustained, countries need to take concentrated and durable measures such as reduction of the maternal mortality rate and additional financing for social issues and environment, increasing women’s access to economic opportunities. Each nation also needs to identify priorities to address remaining gaps.

Vietnam News Agency - December 15, 2011