cost of gender inequality
Around The World

Cost of Gender Inequality: Analysis of Reports and Data

Keeping women away from the workforce and quality education could have negative impacts on the growth and development of any country. A recent report by the World Economic Forum has explained the correlation between the gender gap and the economic development of all the countries. Women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base, a nation’s competitiveness depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its women. The Report highlighted the strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its economic performance and summarizes some of the latest research on the economic and societal case for gender equality and the cost of gender inequality. 


Countries that have made investments in women’s health and education,  generally see the returns on this investment in terms of women’s economic and political participation. These countries include the Nordic countries, the United States, the Philippines, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. None of these countries has, however, fully closed economic and participation gaps—in particular, the gaps in political participation, leadership positions, wages still persist.


In the second broad group, there are countries that have made key investments in women’s education but have generally not removed barriers to women’s participation in the workforce and are thus not seeing returns on their investments in the development of one half of their human capital. This group includes Japan, United Arab Emirates, Chile, and Brazil. These countries have an educated talent pool and would have much to gain through women’s greater participation in the workforce.


In the third and fourth groups, the most basic investments in girls’ and women’s education still need to be made, and fundamental rights—including legal frameworks around inheritance, reproductive rights, and violence—are often inadequate. The third group has countries such as Yemen, Pakistan, India, and Mauritania that have large education as well as economic gender gaps.


The fourth group contains countries such as Guinea, Chad, Mozambique and Burundi, which have large education gender gaps but small economic ones, primarily due to high levels of participation by women in low-skilled work.


Compared with the third group, women in these countries have greater access to income and decision-making. However, a lot of literature has shown that investing in girls’ education is one of the highest-return investments a developing economy can make. The impact and cost of gender inequality are actually much higher and deeper than many can imagine. 


A three-year research report by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women on “The economic impacts of child marriage” demonstrates the negative impacts of the practice and their associated economic costs. The study looks at five domains of impacts: (i) fertility and population growth; (ii) health, nutrition, and violence; (iii) educational attainment and learning; (iv) labor force participation and earnings; and (v) participation, decision-making, and investments.


Order of Magnitude of the Benefits from Ending Child Marriage – Selected Global Estimates :
Annual Benefit in 2015Annual Benefit in 2030
Welfare benefit from reduced population growth

Benefit from reduced under-five mortality

Benefit from reduced under-five stunting

$22 billion

$42 billion

$9 billion

$566 billion

$82 billion

$16 billion


Another study by the International Finance Corporation, confirms that better employment opportunities for women can also contribute to increased profitability and productivity in the private sector. Companies that invest in women’s employment often find that it benefits their bottom line by improving staff retention, innovation, and access to talent and new markets.


Gender differences in the laws affect both developing and developed economies, and women in all regions. Almost 90 per cent of 143 economies studied have at least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities (report). Of those, 79 economies have laws that restrict the types of jobs that women can do.


A report published jointly by the World Bank Group and the Canadian government demonstrated globally, for the 141 countries included in the analysis, the loss in human capital wealth due to gender inequality is estimated at $160.2 trillion if we simply assume that women would earn as much as men. This is about twice the value of GDP globally! On a per-capita basis, gender inequality in earnings could lead to losses in the wealth of $23,620 per person globally.



Analysis of published reports, data and studies help determine the close connection between gender equality and economic development, and the true cost of gender inequality. Including women in the workforce and closing the gender gap in education and health care is the key to a better and more prosperous economy. This can be obtained by ensuring quality primary and secondary education, providing job-related training, developing entrepreneur roles, changing policies and laws, and changing the mindset of the society about women’s roles.

Also Read: Girls’ Education: Challenges and Recommendations



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