Gender inequality in work costs women in developing countries $9 trillion each year in lower pay and limited access to paid jobs.
This is more than the combined GDPs of Britain, France and Germany, according to analysis by development agency ActionAid.
The findings follow a recent report by the World Bank showing that, on average, female workers earn 10%-30% less than men for comparable work.
According to the World Bank, women comprise 60% of the world’s working poor and are only half as likely as men to have full-time-wage jobs and spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work, such as caring and housework.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that it shall take 75 years to make the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ a reality for women and men. Women’s exploitation in the labour market is further compounded by their disproportionate share of unpaid care responsibilities, such as child rearing, domestic chores, and caring for the sick and elderly.
This condemns them to informal or low-paid employment and a disproportionate burden of work hours, Action Aid reports.
In developing countries alone the gender wage gap is equivalent to India’s entire economy, US$2 trillion.
Furthermore, ActionAid has reported that if women participated in the workforce at the same rate as men, women could earn another US$6 trillion.
Significantly, ActionAid’s figures do not include the potential value of women’s unpaid care work if it were translated into monetary terms.
The US$9 trillion gender gap has significant, cascading effect on national economies and business. Women, who suffer from economic exploitation, are less able to make life choices and are often unable to act on them.
“Unemployment, job insecurity and low pay all limit women’s ability to feed, educate and nurture their children. And on the other hand, women enjoying decent work and equal and living wages is a path to poverty eradication, gender equality, sustainable development and inclusive growth,” ActionAid reports.
Investing in inclusive national social security programmes boosts economies, drives equality, more and better jobs, especially for women.
Female employment for business also creates dividends through a more talented and diverse pool of workers, a more reliable and sustainable supply of commodities and new or expanded markets for products and services; in addition to regulatory and reputational complementarities.
The key challenge is moving from a few industry champions to the mainstream, from CSR to corporate accountability, and from the pursuit of short-term returns, to sustainable, profitable and ethical business models for the long-term.
Action Aid’s full report, ‘Closing the Gap’ can be downloaded here.