Women as a force for economic change


October 2016 | 6 min read

While the world struggles to find new sources of growth, one solution to revive sputtering economies requires neither drilling nor innovation and could add up to USD 12 trillion to the global economy within a decade. In theory, companies and societies should be clamoring to embrace such an economic panacea - getting more women to work. But the reality is far from ideal: women worldwide still face huge hurdles in the workforce, despite the irrefutable benefits.

Economic case for narrowing the gender gap

A 2013 IMF study says gender gaps in the labor market have resulted in losses in GDP per capita of up to 27% in some markets. Additionally, the IMF found that raising female labor participation levels to match that of men would significantly raise GDP – notably, by 5% in the US, 9% in Japan, 12% in the UAE and 34% in Egypt.

Persistence of the gender gap

Only 50% of the world's women are gainfully employed, much less than 75% for men. The gender gap (the difference between working men and women) exists across the world - from Saudi Arabia and India (both over 45%) to Canada and France (both under 10%). Women also still earn on average 24% less than men globally. The reasons for these vary across regions, but certain factors are universal.

Female labor participation deficit relative to men by country (15 - 64 years)

Gender gap in %

Source: OECD Employment database, March 2014

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