Gender Equality and Economic Benefits

For years, many in the development community have focused primarily on trying to improve girls’ and women’s capabilities — making them more educated, healthier, and better trained. But in addition to focusing on women’s and girls’ capabilities, more needs to be done to improve their opportunities and change the economic system that is biassed against them.

Study after study tells us that giving women and girls equal access to economic opportunities, including productive and financial assets and quality employment, is the key to unlocking economic growth in an unprecedented way.  More importantly, closing gender gaps in the economy and society at large would mean that this wealth is more evenly distributed — that women stand to benefit more equally from the value they contribute to their communities and countries. It would give women the capacity to invest more in the health, education, and the overall well-being of their children, thus securing a more prosperous future for the next generation. 

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.

Kofi Annan

The potential payoffs are enormous — and we can’t afford to ignore them. I was reading a report by McKinsey Global Institute saying that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. A study by IMF is saying that if we create a system where women in sub-Saharan Africa have the same economic opportunities as men, it could add up to $700 billion to the global economy.

EIGE said in a study about the economic benefits of gender equality in the European Union that “improvements to gender equality would generate up to 10.5 million additional jobs by 2050 and the EU employment rate would reach almost 80%. EU Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita would also be positively affected and could increase up to nearly 10% by 2050.”

The UN FAO estimates in 2019 report that giving women equal access to essential resources and services could increase yields on women’s farms by 20-30%, which could raise macro agricultural outputs in developing countries by 2.5-4%.  The same report indicates that if women had access to the same information and resources as men, up to 150 million people could be lifted out of poverty. Providing women farmers with the tools and support to become more productive is also crucial to addressing climate change — it is estimated that if women could grow 20-30 per cent more food on the same amount of land, we would avoid 2 billion tons of emissions between now and 2050.

The attainment of a more equitable society and narrowing gender differences are two issues that are drawing considerable attention from policymakers in several countries. There is also increasing recognition that the pursuit of these two objectives is not just desirable from a social equity perspective, but that it would have beneficial effects for the macroeconomy.

But even with this attention and after decades of progress toward making women equal partners with men in the economy and society, the gap between them remains large.

Beating extreme poverty by tackling global gender inequality requires more from all of us. We have to think bigger, and we have to think differently. Investing in women and girls is the single most promising economic, political, and social opportunity of our time.

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