How Women Can Help Boost Global Economy By $6 Trillion

If countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development caught up to Sweden's female employment rate, they would see huge financial gains, says PwC research
How Women Can Help Boost Global Economy By $6 Trillion
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Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific
3 min read


From maternity leave to #Metoo, working women across the world are increasingly asserting their right to be treated fairly and equally at the workplace. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, however, they still face inequalities when it comes to the workplace.

Not only does the pay gap persist, women also continue to be under-represented in leadership, accounting for only one in five of board seats in the largest publicly-listed companies in the OECD, says a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). It adds that if the world’s biggest economies matched their workforces to Sweden, which has a 69 per cent female employment rate, the total global GDP gain could be $6 trillion.

The Hurdles Ahead

PwC’s Women in Work Index shows that while progress continues to be made across 33 OECD countries, the pace of progress is slow. “Improving female participation in work across the OECD could boost OECD GDP by US$6 trillion, while closing the gender pay gap could boost GDP by US$2 trillion,” says the study.

Iceland and Sweden occupied the top two positions on the index, which used a number of measures to gauge workplace equality, including countries’ employment rate (the number of people employed as a share of the working age, 15-69, population). New Zealand moved up one place to round off the top three.

The UK moved up from 14th to 13th position this year, “but its progress is held back by a stubbornly persistent gender pay gap, which will require concerted government policy and business action to address. We also find significant variation in regional performance on the Index”. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales outperformed most English regions, likely due to the higher share of public sector employment in these regions that tend to have smaller pay gaps and better female representation at senior levels, says the report.

Since 2000, Luxembourg and Poland have made the largest improvements on the index, while Portugal, the United States and Austria have experienced the greatest fall in the rankings over this period.

The Asia Conversation

The report notes that rapid economic growth over the past few decades in India and China– the two most populous nations in the world–has led to significant improvements in female economic empowerment. Since 2000, India and China have added 167 million people to the global workforce, including 26 million women who now account for 35 per cent of the global female workforce.

Further efforts, however, are needed to promote gender equality and female participation in the workforce, which could help generate significant gains for both economic powerhouses.

Increasing female employment to match Sweden’s would increase Chinese GDP by $497 billion. India, on the other hand, would generate a $7 trillion boost to GDP, approximately 79 per cent of India’s GDP.

Like China, India faces a significant challenge with a fairly large gender pay gap of 36 per cent, significantly higher than any of the other countries included in the index.

“These trends suggest that underlying structural factors and the make-up of each region’s economic activity can influence female economic opportunity,” it states.


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