Policy Makers of the 21st Century Must Mind Gender Inequality

According to UN Women, the economic empowerment of females improves productivity and increases economic diversification and income equality.

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano

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In terms of individual companies, increasing leadership and employment opportunities for women has also been associated with growth and organizational effectiveness.

It is no secret that when America and its allies brought down the Taliban in 2001, primary school enrolment of Afghan girls rocketed from 0% to above 80%. Infant mortality fell by half and even compulsory marriage was made illegal. In other words, the human rights situation considerably improved for Afghan females in the past twenty years. However, with the recent rise of the Taliban, the world fears that those improvements will be affected, since even education and work outside the home were denied to women when the militants were last in power.

Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, it is worth mentioning that Researchers at Texas A&M and Brigham Young Universities assembled a global index of pre-modern attitudes to women, such as unequal property rights, sexist family laws, early marriage for girls, patrilocal marriage, son preference, bride prices, early marriage for girls, violence against women and polygamy. Their results revealed that the index was highly correlated with violent instability in a country.

Several theories claim that gender inequality is a barrier to development, especially over the long run. According to Silva and Kessen, several mechanisms can explain why inequality between men and women can affect the aggregate economy, but researchers have focused particularly on the role of women in decisions related to fertility and human capital investments. Population growth and human capital accumulation are both dependants on decisions that are made within households. The first one depends on household fertility decisions while the second one varies according to parental investment in child health and education.


As mentioned by PwC Women in Work Index 2018, increasing the female employment rates in OECD countries to match that of Sweden, could boost GDP by more than USD 6 trillion. It is also worth highlighting that gender gaps cost the economy 15% of GDP. Starting from the year 2006, various world institutions have published reports that include strong evidence proving that greater economic inclusion of women impulses growth in national income. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, those countries where women have the fewest freedoms including economic rights are also among the poorest and most conflict-ridden in the world.

Although causality is highly dependent on method, USAID has mentioned that in general terms, gender inequality is not a symptom of poverty but a main cause of poverty. Gender restrictions such as unequal land distribution, limits on labor participation, exclusionary financial systems, unpaid work, unequal food distribution, inadequate health, lack of safety, and rape in conflict, have been known to cause and perpetuate poverty at a global scale. One point that stands clear is that economic development experts should quit treating inequality as a symptom of poverty and begin to address it as a cause.

Let's bear in mind the words of Graça Machel: "Gender equality is the goal that will help abolish poverty that will create more equal economies, fairer societies, and happier men, women, and children."

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