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New research highlights how gender equality impacts the economy

January 31, 2019
The assumption that reducing gender inequality in education, the labour force, and pay automatically improves economic performance has dominated public policy discussions in recent years.


To determine the strength of this assumption, a team of researchers led by Stephan Klasen, professor of economics at Göttingen University in Germany, reviewed the existing economics research.

In the recently released findings, Klasen found that while reducing gender gaps in education clearly has a positive effect on a country’s economic performance, much more work is required before we can gain an understanding of the economic impact of reductions in other forms of gender inequality. Studies in the fields of labour force participation and pay are too few and too weak to be reliable and they are too local to draw generalizations from, says Klasen in a video produced by LATEST THINKING, an independent open access video journal.

“While of course there is an equity and maybe a justice case to be made to promote female employment opportunities, the claim that they will have a large and immediate impact on economic performance is problematic,” he remarks. Policymakers need a clear picture of potential impacts on the road toward gender equality and a realistic assessment of how improvements in each area will play out over time. Given the issue’s relevance to public policy debates, this considerable gap in knowledge should occupy researchers for many years to come.

This research was part of the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) program, a five-year initiative that supported 14 research teams around the world to generate evidence on women’s economic empowerment and to promote its use by key decision-makers. The program launched in 2013 in partnership with The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development.

Read the project description Growth and Women: Pathways for Shared Prosperity.

Explore policy briefs on the theme of economic growth and gender equality.

Read the synthesis report from five years of research on macroeconomics and gender, authored by Stephan Klasen and Sophia Kan (English only).