Does Empowering Women Improve the Economy?

By , 30 March, 2012, No Comment

Esther Duflo, an economist I like and admire, made some troubling comments about women’s empowerment in a recent FT interview:

“Giving more to women will to some extent come at the expense of men. People sometimes try to sweep that under the rug by saying you will create so much additional resources that everyone will be better off.” She smiles wryly but firmly. “I don’t think that’s true.”

The comments fly in the face of a wealth of economic data showing that empowering women is a boon for economic growth, some of which I’ve written up for Forbes:

1. A 2007 Goldman Sachs report concluded that closing the gap between male and female employment would add 9% to US GDP, 13% to European GDPs and 16% to Japan’s GDP. Moreover, policies to facilitate female employment – like child care and parental leave rules that make it easier to work and have children – boost low fertility rates in the developed world. That means more women in the work force would actually alleviate one of the heaviest burdens on developed economies: an aging population’s expensive entitlements.

2. The World Bank reports that if women in the Middle East and North Africa were fully integrated into the workforce, average household earnings in the region would increase by 25%.

3. The Economist reports that rising numbers of women in the workforce in the developed world over the past decade have added more to global growth than China has. In the U.S., the State Department says the productivity gains attributable to the increase in female employment account for 25% of current U.S. GDP.

Read the whole post here.

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