World Could Achieve ‘Gender Dividend’ of $172 Trillion from Closing Lifetime Earnings Gaps

A new report from the World Bank Group released ahead of International Women’s Day shows that the world could achieve a ‘gender dividend’ of $172 trillion by closing gaps in lifetime labor earnings between women and men.

The study, How Large is the Gender Dividend? Measuring Selected Impacts and Costs of Gender Inequality,” finds that if women earned the same as men, global human capital wealth could increase by about one-fifth, and women’s human capital wealth could increase by more than half.

This report builds on past research to highlight the cost of the gender earnings gap, which holds countries back from achieving their full potential,” said Caren Grown, Senior Director of Gender at the World Bank Group. “Improving women’s lifetime earnings opportunities can be achieved by taking actions that redistribute and balance care responsibilities, create a pipeline of talent by closing the gender gap in employment and entrepreneurship, and tackling discriminatory laws and restrictive social norms that hold back girls and women.”

‘How Large is the Gender Dividend?,’ supported by Global Affairs Canada, examines other domains of gender inequality in addition to the earnings gap, including: educational attainment, child marriage and early childbearing; fertility and population growth; health, nutrition, well-being, and violence; and agency, decision-making, and social capital. It shows:

-Gender inequality impacts women throughout their lives but is especially detrimental in adolescence.

-Child marriage and early childbearing have lasting negative impacts on the health of young women and their children, and entrench gender inequalities.

-Gender inequality affects many development outcomes, with large intergenerational impacts.

Investments are needed to create life-long opportunities for girls and women, delay marriage and childbearing, and increase human capital wealth,” said report lead author Quentin Wodon, Lead Economist at the World Bank Group.

The World Bank Group also released data on legal barriers that limit women’s employment and entrepreneurship opportunities over the last fifty years, providing insight into the way women’s rights have evolved worldwide. The data, expanding the time series developed by the Women, Business and the Law program, shows that in 1970, women had only half the legal rights of men on average in the areas measured; today, women are three-quarters equal. Globally, a total of 1518 reforms were conducted in fifty years, with dramatic changes in laws affecting a woman’s decision to work. Although there has been progress, these trends underscore the need to accelerate reforms, particularly in laws affecting women’s work after having children, so that girls will not need to wait fifty more years to make the choices that are best for them and fully realize their potential.

The report ‘How Large is the Gender Dividend?’  follows the May 2018 study, “Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings.

The report Women, Business and the Law 2020 provides the latest analysis of reforms conducted between 2017-2019.