Gender parity can boost India’s GDP by 27%: WEF co-chairs

NEW DELHI: Raising women’s participation in the labour force to the same level as men can boost India’s GDP by 27 per cent, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde and Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg have said in a joint paper.

Pitching for 2018 to be made “the year for women to thrive”, the two leaders said “time is up for discrimination and abuse against women” in the paper published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ahead of the Geneva-based organisation’s annual summit in Swiss ski resort town Davos.

Lagarde and Solberg are among the all-women co-chairs of the annual confab this year, beginning tomorrow. Indian social entrepreneur Chetna Sinha is also among the co-chairs for the annual summit that will be attended by 70 heads of government from across the world, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump.

Women would account for 21 per cent of the overall participation at the meeting to be attended by over 3,000 world leaders including from politics, business, art and culture, academia and civil society.

“The need for greater respect and opportunities for women is becoming an ever more prominent feature of the public conversation,” Lagarde and Solberg said while asserting that the challenge of female empowerment is firmly on the agenda at the WEF Summit this year.

They said giving women and girls the opportunity to succeed is not only the right thing to do but can also transform societies and economies.

“The economic facts speak for themselves: raising women’s labour force participation to that of men can boost GDP, for example, by as much as 9 per cent in Japan and 27 per cent in India,” the two leaders wrote.

Quoting IMF research for listing myriad macroeconomic benefits, they said reducing gender gaps in employment as well as in education can help economies diversify their exports, while appointing more women onto banking supervision boards can challenge cozy group-think, thereby supporting greater bank stability and financial sector resilience.

Besides, tackling gender inequality can reduce income inequality, which, in turn, can drive more sustainable growth.

“This is a challenge for any country; a task from which every country would benefit. It is a universal mission,” they said.

Lagarde and Solberg said some of the barriers holding women back are universal too and almost 90 per cent of countries have one or more gender-based legal restrictions.

In some countries, for example, women have limited property rights, while in others, husbands have the right to prevent their wives from working. Besides legal obstacles, there are barriers related to combining work and family life, education, access to finance, and pressures from society, they added.

As per the paper, helping women stay active in the workplace while raising a family is key.

Noting that leaders from around the world are meeting in Davos at a time of global economic recovery, Lagarde and Solberg said it is the time when governments must do all they can to sustain this momentum and lay the foundations for long-term growth.

“Helping women make the most of their potential is a key part of this equation…The time has come for women to thrive,” they said.

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