Gender Equality: Better for Growth, Debt, Income Equality & Sustainability

Achieving gender equality is an imperative if the world is to grow in an equitable and sustainable way, for every generation across all countries. Only a more gender-equal world will generate higher growth, lower debt, lower income inequality and more sustainability.

Amlan Roy
PhD, Head of Global Macro Policy Research
Amy Le
CFA, Macro-Investment Strategist, Global Macro Policy Research

Main Findings:

  • Gender inequality persists despite some progress over recent decades. For example, women in developed countries now live longer and are better educated than men: 37.2% of women complete tertiary education compared to 31.9% of men. Yet the average woman in an OECD country earns 14% less than the average man.
  • In advanced countries, female labour force participation rates are also significantly lower than male ones by 5%-20%. But labour force participation rate differences (males less females) are even larger in developing countries, e.g., India (51.6%) and Turkey (39.5%). 
  • Such inequality hampers global growth and causes women to take on more debt, have lower pensions and higher poverty risk. For living standards to rise, policymakers need to tackle gender inequality as a priority, with holistic reforms that span health, education, labor, tax and financial services.
  • In this report, we present evidence of gender inequality along several dimensions and consider the implications for economic growth and living standards. We also study the relationship between the gender gap and income inequality. 
  • We use disaggregated data in the form of the subcomponents of the UN/IMF Gender Inequality Index (GII) that we regularly follow as part of our demographics research: maternal mortality, adolescent fertility, educational gender gap and female empowerment. We believe this helps us better understand the underlying relationships between social and economic factors. 
  • We conclude from our analysis and estimations that elimination of gender inequality is essential for macro growth, development and long-term economic welfare. We therefore hypothesize that countries that make greater progress on gender equality will grow faster, become more equal and create better-educated, more sustainable societies.
  • This aligns with the conclusions of the IMF, the World Bank and the UN’s gender research teams. The IMF has shown that an amelioration of gender inequality equating to a 0.1 reduction in the Gender Inequality Index is associated with almost 1% higher growth in GDP per capita.
  • Country-specific research suggests that raising the female labor force participation rate to country-specific male levels would, for instance, raise GDP by 5% in the US and 9% in Japan. In developing countries, the potential is even greater with possible increases of 12% in the UAE and 34% in Egypt. 
  • We have long advocated improving gender equality as part of the solution to the ageing society problem, but many countries need to make urgent progress to capture the economic and social benefits. Macro gender  policy initiatives must foster better corporate and individual practices in order to be effective and have lasting impact. 

Contact SSGA for a full copy of this report.


The views expressed in this material are the views of Amlan Roy and Amy Le through the period ended 28 February 2019 and are subject to change based on market and other conditions.

Forward looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.

Forecasts are based upon estimates and reflect subjective judgements and assumptions. There can be no assurance that developments will transpire as forecasted and that the estimates are accurate.

All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however, the accuracy of these sources is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on the information provided and it should not be relied on as such.

2443776.1.1.GBL.RTL 0219  Exp. Date: 03/31/2020