Nepal’s transitioning population pattern has produced favourable demographic conditions characterized by declining dependency ratios and expanding working-age population. This demographic environment represents a window of opportunity for Nepal’s long-term path of economic growth. However, acceptable levels of investments and a mix of sound policies are required to improve productivity and upward mobility in the production chain for Nepal to reach its full potential.
With a prevalence of child and adolescent marriage at 28.8 percent in Nepal, this paper examines and estimates the national economic loss in terms of potential cash flow from the labour market that could have been generated had girls delayed their marriage until the age of 20. The model developed for this purpose traces a cohort of married girls age 15-19 over the next 36 years. Under a set of conservative assumptions, the cost of child marriage considered only from the labour market perspective is estimated to amount to 74,498.53 million Nepalese rupees (NRs). This represents 3.87 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014.
It is important to understand how this number can be interpreted. It does not mean that if Nepal’s girls delay their marriage until age 20 the country will immediately gain 3.87 percent of GDP. However it does suggest that if girls delay their marriage until 20 years, the possible cash flow over their productive years will be on average higher than seen in the current situation. Discounting the differential between these cash flows amounts to 3.87 percent of GDP, a very large number in economic terms.
As education contributes to increasing the productivity of the labour force, child marriage – a significant constraining factor to education outcomes – has substantial policy implications. Consequently the study focused on educational deprivation and consequent loss in earnings as a result of child and adolescent marriage. However, child and adolescent marriage has other important costs in the areas of health, mortality, psychological deprivation among others. This fact, coupled with the conservative assumptions used in the study, give grounds that the study’s estimate only represents a lower bound to the possible far higher cost of child and adolescent marriage in Nepal.