Sat, Feb 02, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Realizing gender equality through data-driven solutions

By Mario Pezzini and Gabriela Ramos

At the current rate of progress, it would take more than 200 years to achieve gender equality and female empowerment at work.

In many countries, girls are still forced to marry young, which limits their access to education and future employment opportunities. In Niger, for example, 76 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 were married in 2016, which partly explains why 73 percent of lower-secondary-school-age girls are out of school.

Child labor is also common and almost one-third of the world’s women believe that domestic violence is a justifiable punishment under certain circumstances, such as burning meals.

What does it say about human values when it is considered more acceptable to beat a woman than to ruin dinner?

Legal frameworks enshrine such values. Today, 10 countries still allow marital rape and nine permit rapists to avoid punishment by marrying their victims.

For many more women, such values inform social arrangements that deny them opportunities. Around the world, the absence of paid maternity leave, childcare facilities or family-friendly job policies prevents women’s participation in the formal economy. Even when women do manage to have a career, they still assume three-quarters of household responsibilities.

Clearly, a more equal, gender-inclusive world will require far-reaching change in perceptions, attitudes, stereotypes and laws. Promoting such change is justified not only on moral grounds, but also in economic terms.

According to our estimates, if countries eliminated gender-based discrimination and granted women greater access to education and jobs, global GDP would increase by US$6 trillion over the next decade, but while the rationale for change might be strong, countries often struggle to develop gender-based policies rooted in solid data and evidence.

To address this gap, in 2009 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developed the Social Institutions and Gender Index with data for about 180 countries. Together with the SIGI Policy Simulator, which launched this year, governments can assess how inclusive their gender policies are, identify areas for reform and evaluate the programs they implement.

The data have already yielded important insights. Consider Germany: Although the country ranks high on world gender-equality indexes, SIGI shows that it could enter the top 10 with a relatively simple change: legally mandating equal pay for equal work. The absence of such a requirement costs Germany the equivalent of 1 percent of GDP, according to estimates calculated from the most recent OECD Economic Outlook.

In Chile, granting married women the same property rights as married men would increase total investment by 1 percent. In Vietnam, helping women access the same professional opportunities as men would increase labor-force participation by 1 percent.

In many countries, only mothers are entitled to parental leave, but this reinforces the perception that unpaid care work is a woman’s job, which in turn skews the distribution of domestic duties. Women in Pakistan and India spend, on average, 10 times longer on housework than men do, which means less time engaging in market-related activities, studying or simply relaxing. Nor is this trend unique to South Asia.

So how can governments use SIGI to change laws and advance gender equality? The best way is to learn from the experiences of others.

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