It may be surprising to discover that there is no single issue that could be more important to driving economic growth than the inclusion of women in the work force. The facts in relation to the impact of women on economic growth are simply astounding.
The participation of women in the labor force has been shown to have dramatically beneficial effects on economies. For example, growth among female workers has increased US GDP by as much as 2% per year. Furthermore, 25% of Europe’s economic growth over the past 20 years can be attributed to increased labor force participation among women.
Despite the clear positive economic effects of the inclusion of women in the work force, there are currently 1.5 billion working age women who are not part of the formal international economy. To put this into perspective, this figure is greater than the entire population of China.
There are several reasons that so many women are not working, and these vary among countries. For example, in many middle-income countries, women are half as likely as men to work. This is because many of these countries are just becoming industrialized and newly created jobs there tend to be in manufacturing or agriculture and therefore require a high level of physical strength.
In other countries, such as many in the Middle East, there are legal restrictions which prevent women from working at all. In addition, in many poor countries, the fact that women tend to have a large number of children makes it difficult for them to work outside the home due to their child care responsibilities.
These problems are certainly very different and each requires specific policy interventions. However, one single approach that may be generally helpful is improving women’s education. Indeed, something that the US and Europe have in common is that women represent the majority of new college graduates, whereas this is not the case in other parts of the world. For example, in Asia, women lag behind men by 20-40% in terms of educational attainment.
Although increased education will not help all women, it has been shown that even basic education can help lift populations out of poverty. More advanced education will certainly help many women enter the work force because it is often a prerequisite for many jobs. The need for education will only increase in the future as the world works towards a more service-based economy. To fully realize the potential impact of women on economic growth, it is therefore crucial for women to be as well-educated as men in order to have access to the same opportunities.
The potential of women in helping improve the global economy is incredible. The inclusion of 1.5 billion women in the global workforce could have dramatic effects just as the rise of China has driven the global economy and helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. It is therefore in the interest of the global economy for foreign aid initiatives to prioritize and help women around the world, particularly when it comes to education.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez
Source: The Atlantic