Opinion

The $28 trillion question!

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on September 30, 2015

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Big number! What’s the question?

Here we go: Are countries ready to ensure that women get equal opportunities in employment?

So where does the money come in?

An ideal situation where women and men have identical roles in labour markets — a “full potential” scenario — could add some $28 trillion, or 26 per cent, to the global annual GDP by 2025. This impact is roughly equivalent to the size of the combined Chinese and US economies today.

And the source?

McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). In its report, The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth, which was released just the past week, the global consultancy known for its path-breaking reports says a “best in region” scenario — in which all countries match the rate of improvement of the fastest-improving country in their region — could add nearly $12 trillion, or 11 per cent, to the 2025 GDP. That’s equivalent to the current GDP of Germany, Japan, and the UK combined.

Agreed. But what are the areas one should focus on?

The study maps 15 indicators for 95 countries. Broadly, these indicators fall into four focal areas: equality in work, essential services and enablers of economic opportunity, legal protection and political voice, and physical security and autonomy.

A tall order. Especially in the misogynist world we live in.

You said it. But the time has come when businesses and policymakers cannot afford to turn a blind eye to gender parity; gender equality means business now. What the MGI study has done is put a number to it. Take India, where women provide only 17 per cent to the GDP. The study says the country can increase its 2025 GDP, estimated to be $4.83 trillion, by between 16 per cent and 60 per cent if it helps women participate in the economy on par with men. If everything goes impeccably well — the ‘full potential’ scenario — it could add $2.9 trillion to India’s GDP in 2025.

Easier said than done, though

Not if there is a will. The study highlights six interventions countries can make to ensure gender parity at work. They are: financial incentives and support; technology and infrastructure; the creation of economic opportunity; capability building; advocacy and shaping attitudes; and laws, policies, and rules.

Looks like a ‘who’ll bell the cat’ scenario.

Clearly, businesses and governments must show the way. MGI says tackling gender inequality will need changes within businesses as well as new coalitions. The private sector will need to play a more active role in concert with governments and NGOs. There needs to be a tectonic shift in the attitudes towards acknowledging women’s work, to start with. The MGI study, interestingly, finds that globally, women do 75 per cent of the total unpaid care work (child and elderly care, cooking) and if this hard work is considered as traditional GDP, it could be worth $10 trillion a year.

Forget unpaid work, even paid work isn’t easy, given how anti-woman labour laws are...

Indeed. Gender equality at work is a big ask given the current work regulations, especially in countries like India where women workers don’t enjoy even proper maternity benefits. A 2014 paper, Female Labour Force Participation in India and Beyond, by the ILO, says women continue to face barriers to entering the labour market and accessing decent work, including care responsibilities, lack of skills, limited mobility and safety issues. The paper finds that, in fact, there has been a fall in the female labour participation rate in India in these recent years of strong economic growth.

Seems like $28 trillion is a long way off!

There you go!

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Published on September 30, 2015
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