Reducing gender gaps would significantly benefit women, society and the economy

GENEVA (ILO News) – Gender gaps remain one of the most pressing challenges facing the world of work. Women are substantially less likely than men to participate in the labour market, and once in the job market, they are less likely than men to find a job and the quality of employment they do find remains a key concern, a new ILO report shows.
Helping women access the labour market is nevertheless an important first step. Yet, in 2017, the global labour force participation rate for women – at just over 49 per cent – is nearly 27 percentage points lower than the rate for men (table 1), and is forecast to remain unchanged in 2018.

In 2014, G20 leaders made a commitment to reduce the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by the year 2025.

The report, World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) Trends for Women 2017 , estimates that if this goal was realized at the global level, it has the potential to add US$ 5.8 trillion dollars to the global economy. This could also unlock large potential tax revenues. For example, global tax revenue could increase by US$ 1.5 trillion, most of it in emerging (US$ 990 billion) and developed countries (US$ 530 billion), the report noted. Northern Africa, the Arab States and Southern Asia would see the greatest benefits given that in these regions the gaps in participation rates between men and women exceed 50 percentage points.

Table 1. Gender gap in labour force participation and potential impact of closing these gaps

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Promoting women’s well-being

On top of the significant economic benefits, engaging more women in the world of work would have a positive impact on their well-being since most women would like to work. “The fact that half of women worldwide are out of the labour force when 58 per cent of them would prefer to work at paid jobs is a strong indication that there are significant challenges restricting their capabilities and freedom to participate,” said ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy, Deborah Greenfield.

“The most immediate concern for policy makers, therefore, should be to alleviate the constraints that women face in choosing to enter the labour market and address the barriers they are confronted with once they are in the workplace.”

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