Gender equality can give $4.5tn boost to Asia's economy

16 May 2018

Promoting women’s equality in Asia Pacific countries could add $4.5tn to the region’s annual GDP by 2025, a 12% increase over what would happen if no changes were made, according to a report.

The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Asia Pacific said pursuing gender parity was already a powerful engine of global growth.

But it added that it could lift many more women out of poverty, unleash the economic potential of many others, and reinforce the region’s dynamic growth story.

All countries would benefit from advancing women’s equality, the report argued.

China could improve its GDP annually by $2.6tn, a 13% increase over business-as-usual GDP while India could achieve an 18% increase over business-as-usual GDP, or $770bn.

The report estimates that across Asia Pacific 58% of the opportunity would come from raising female participation in the labour force, 17% from increasing the number of hours women work, and 25% from more women working in higher-productivity sectors.

“MGI has established a strong link between gender equality in work and in society - the former is not achievable without the latter,” said the study.

Using its own Gender Parity Score, or GPS, which measures 15 indicators of gender equality in work and society, it found Asia Pacific was slightly behind the global average when it came to gender inequality.

Within the region the Philippines stands out for its progress, followed by New Zealand and Singapore.

Meanwhile the six countries making least progress were Bangladesh, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Korea.

Like most Asian countries China did well on female labour-force participation but could improve its share of women in leadership.

“Globally, there are fewer than four women in leadership roles to every ten men, but, in Asia Pacific, only around one woman for every four men,” said the report.

When it comes to access to services such as education, maternal and reproductive health, financial and digital inclusion, and legal protection and political voice, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore are ahead of most in the region.

Countries such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan did significantly worse in this aspect.

“Asia Pacific nations have made progress in the past decade, driven by a combination of economic development, government measures, technological change, market forces, and activism,” said the report.

“Maternal mortality and gender gaps in education have declined in countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Nepal.”

While many countries have increased women’s labour-force participation, it has fallen in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. The report said this trend may be linked to rising household income.

The report recommended policy makers, companies and non-governmental organisations work to increase female labour-force participation, with steps to address unpaid care work as a priority to boost economic growth, and address women’s underrepresentation in business leadership positions. It also recommends improving access to digital technology, shifting social attitudes about women’s role in society and work and collaborating on regional solutions.

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