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Critical areas underpinning a strong and inclusive recovery

While the country has been able to avoid the acute health crisis that Covid-19 has caused around the globe, the disruptions to the economy and the wellbeing of the population are severe and will not disappear overnight. With a double-digit recession in 2020, and tourism remaining at a standstill, the challenge ahead is to reinvigorate growth and job creation and come back stronger and more resilient than before. “One thing that encourages me about Mauritius is that this country is always looking forward. In this spirit, our newest edition of ‘World Bank in Mauritius’ looks past the crisis at hand, and into some of the critical areas underpinning a strong and inclusive recovery”, says Erik von Uexkul, World Bank Representative for Mauritius & Seychelles, in his editorial to the March issue

Supporting women’s success in the labor market is one of these areas. As Isis Gaddis (Senior Economist) and Marco Ranzani (Poverty Economist) show using labor force data over the last decade, Mauritius has made progress in closing the “gender gap” for labor force participation and equal pay. However, Covid-19 has reversed some of the progress by pushing women back out of the labor force, and a lot remains to be done especially for women with low educational achievement for which the disparities are the largest. Isis and Marco led a project with the aim to listen to these women to better understand the obstacles they continue to face. Key among their recommendations, in addition to investment in childcare and more equitable parental leave, are new ways to think about cultural norms and a more equitable distribution of unpaid house and care work within the family.

Kathrin Plangemann (Lead Governance Expert) reflects about the importance of strategic planning, and the lessons learned from the successes and failures in this discipline around the world. One of her central points is that having an agile planning system in place is important not only in the medium term but can also help governments respond effectively to unforeseen challenges like Covid-19, and to ensure a strong recovery.

Looking even further ahead, perhaps the most critical factor for Mauritius’ continued development success are the very foundations for learning and personal success instilled today in young children.

It is a historical irony that, in the midst of the 2020 recession, Mauritius reached the long-aspired status of High-Income Country as per the World Bank’s classification system. While this is based on 2019 pre-Covid data, and the 2020 recession may well bring a drop back to Upper Middle-Income status, it should nevertheless be a moment for reflection on what Mauritians have accomplished through hard work, dedication, and spirit of collaboration.



Over the past decade Mauritius enacted several reforms to enhance women’s economic opportunities. Mauritius has been highlighted as a top reformer in the 2019 edition of Women, Business and the Law and improved its overall score. These reforms included, among others, an increase in the length of maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks in 2015, which brought the country in line with standards of the International Labour Organization on the duration of maternity leave.

However, Mauritius still only scores 60 [out of 100] in the sub-indicator “Parenthood”. This reflects that there is currently no system of parental leave and that maternity leave benefits are the liability of the employer as opposed to being funded out of mandatory social security or other public funds. Public funding of maternity leave benefits would shift the financial burden away from individual employers to ensure that there is no bias against recruiting women of childbearing age. In this respect, the country lags behind other middle- and high-income countries, which often have instituted more progressive parental leave legislation funded by social security.

So, what could be done to increase female labor force participation?

First, Mauritius could follow the path of an increasing number of high- and middle-income countries offering paid parental leave, which is often supplementary to specific maternity and paternity leave periods. Parental leave can either be a sharable family entitlement or an individual entitlement that each parent can take regardless of the other and may include elements that incentivize uptake by fathers (through bonus months or “daddy quotas”).

Second, there is the issue of child care. While pre-primary education for children aged three to five years is compulsory and free of charge, there is a lack of affordable day care centers for younger children.

In Mauritius, children aged three months to just under three years can attend Day Care Centers. Most of these are privately owned and charge fees in the range of Rs 2,500-3,500 per month, which can be a heavy financial burden on low-income families. Moreover, many of these centers have restrictive opening hours and hence do not meet the needs of parents working full time and/or late hours. Lack of affordable childcare affects women disproportionately because social norms assign to Mauritian women the traditional role of providing such care.

Third, there may be ways to address the underlying social norms and assigned gender roles that constrain women’s economic opportunities more directly.

Last, there is the gender wage gap. Mauritian women working in the private sector are paid, on average, about 20 percent less than men per hour worked. Sector of employment, occupation, job tenure, and enterprise size are important factors that can help explain differences in wages between men and women. However, other factors – such as gender discrimination in the workplace or differences between men and women in noncognitive skills (for example, confidence or assertiveness) likely also play a role. Mandating pay transparency is a policy that an increasing number of countries have adopted to reduce gender pay gaps.



Using data provided by Statistics Mauritius for 2019, the World Bank has re-classified Mauritius from upper-middle to highincome country for the first time on July 1st 2020. Mauritius joins Seychelles as the second high-income economy in Africa.

According to the figures released by the World Bank, Mauritius’ GNI per capita for 2019 is US$ 12,740, a 3.5 percent increase over the 2018 figure. The annually adjusted high-income threshold is at US$ 12,535. It is important to note that this classification is done over 2019 data and thus does not yet reflect the economic impact of COVID-19. It is possible that the strong recession this year due to COVID-19 will lead Mauritius to temporarily return to upper-middle income level when the 2020 data is considered during next year’s update. But in a longer-term perspective, reaching high income level is a great achievement that reflects the efforts and dedication of generations of Mauritians to build a better future for their children.

From an operational perspective, the reclassification does not affect the World Bank’s work in Mauritius as support remains available to member countries at high-income level. Most development partners refer to the OECD list of countries eligible for Official Development Assistance to determine their support. The list is reviewed every three years (with the next review due in 2020, and then in 2023, etc.), and only if a country has, at the time of review, been classified as high-income for three consecutive years it graduates from the list.

Thus, even if Mauritius were to maintain high-income status in 2020 despite the impact of COVID-19, it would not graduate before 2023. Trade preferences granted to Mauritian exports in the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are also linked to income status. Graduation from AGOA follows a process in which the US administration, upon a country reaching high-income status, reassesses and eventually revokes eligibility following a grace period of up to two years. In past practice, countries falling back to middle-income status in similar situations have maintained their preferential market access.

One of the ambitions of the UIEH is to train high profile students into future leaders. Can you elaborate?

As I said earlier, UIEH aims to offer programmes, in partnership with renowned universities, that meet local and regional needs in the fields of IT/digital, Engineering, Health and Business Innovation and Finance. Our partners’ curricula focus not only on imparting knowledge but also on practical skills development. This is essential in today’s job market and significantly enhances university students’ employability. Middlesex University boasts an employability rate of over 95%, a figure that rises to nearly 100% for IT graduates. We also target specialised areas of interest relevant to African markets, from which 45% of our student population is drawn.

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