Gender equality key to GDP growth?

BY Richard Summerfield               

Women today continue to face myriad social and economic barriers to attaining true gender parity. However, according to a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, a lack of gender equality not only hinders women, it is also holding back the global economy to the tune of $28 trillion.

The world’s gross domestic product (GDP) could be uplifted by the equivalent of the combined economies of the US and China - $28 trillion - by 2025, according to the report, entitled 'The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth'. This economic uptick is contingent on women performing identical labour roles to their male equivalents. “We would call it an opportunity cost - this is the value at stake,” says Anu Madgavkar, a senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute and one of the authors of the report.

According to the research, women currently generate just 37 percent of global GDP. However, if they gained gender parity, they could boost the global economy by the equivalent of the US and Chinese economies combined. Even incremental progress on gender equality could be hugely beneficial to the global economy. If every country matched the participation rates of the highest-performing countries in their region, global activity would increase by $12 trillion – a figure equal to the combined GDPs of Japan, Germany and the UK.

Three of the major roadblocks which hold women back, according to the report, are lower workforce participation, fewer hours worked, and the fact that women are disproportionately represented in low-productivity sectors like agriculture. The notion that women are expected to take on the role of unpaid care in their personal lives also has a detrimental effect on their ability to contribute more significantly to global GDP. “When we looked at all the elements of gender inequality in work, unpaid care work was one of the top factors,” notes Ms Madgavkar.

Clearly, the role that women can play in advancing the global economy is considerable; however, it is important to note that gender equality in the workplace must go hand in hand with equality in wider society: "Realising the economic prize of gender parity requires the world to address fundamental drivers of the gap in work equality, such as education, health, connectivity, security, and the role of women in unpaid work".

Report: The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth

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