Economic empowerment has many different facets. From encouraging people to start small businesses to improving working conditions, the different aspects of empowerment are important factors in keeping the economy moving forward. Martin Mbeteni, a commercial real estate banker, examines economic empowerment in detail, giving examples of shifts in the global market that have led to greater success for certain segments of the population.
The Basics of Economic Empowerment
Economic empowerment happens when a group of people is given the ability to control their participation in the economy. This term is mostly applied to groups of people who have historically had very little power to shape their economic destiny. It has a twofold result, with people experiencing an increase in economic status as well as gaining control of their participation in the economy.
Economic empowerment does not include direct aid in the form of money. It goes beyond simply donating money or food to a person or community. It gives opportunities for people to participate more fully in the economy. Empowering people from disadvantaged backgrounds leads to greater social status and the ability to make decisions for themselves.
Methods of Increasing Economic Empowerment
For example, micro-lending programs help people in developing countries start their own businesses. Startup costs in developing countries are low, and even a small loan can help a person in a developing country set up a workspace and build their business.
Microlending benefits the lender as well since interest rates tend to be higher than other forms of lending. However, there is a greater risk of default than with traditional lending, since these loans are not secured by collateral.
Job training programs are another important facet of economic empowerment. When a person has enhanced job skills, he or she is better able to find good employment or to open a business. Retraining can help a person who has been out of work for some time, lessening their dependence on government welfare programs.
Making childcare available is an important means of fostering women’s economic independence. Without subsidized childcare, many women find it difficult to reenter the workforce. When employers or government entities create childcare programs, they can help to free women from the constant demands of caring for a family. When women are empowered, the entire economy benefits from their contributions.
The Global State of Economic Empowerment
Over the past several years, economic empowerment has made its mark in the world. Programs that help people achieve economic independence have been implemented in many developing countries. Multinational corporations have begun initiatives that encourage access to the market and train people to take on higher-level jobs.
It should, however, be noted that fostering economic empowerment is not just limited to developing countries. Some people in the United States also need assistance with training, financial literacy, and in addressing social inequalities that lead to economic disadvantages. Socially responsible corporations and governmental agencies have invested both time and money in economic empowerment programs. When all members of society are supported in their specific needs, the economy flourishes and people are less likely to need direct aid from the government to make ends meet.
Giving People the Power to Change Their Lives
Martin Mbeteni reminds us that the basic tenet of economic empowerment is that it helps people gain the ability to influence their own standing in the economy. Economic empowerment leads to greater social status as well as greater prosperity for the community as a whole. When disadvantaged segments of the population are given opportunities, they can become full members of the economy and share their skills with the local community.
Microlending, job training, and childcare initiatives are only a few examples of economic empowerment programs. These programs are put in place by concerned corporations as well as government agencies. When the neediest people in an economy are given a leg up, the entire economy and society benefit.