Tackle gender gap to boost growth, says OECD


22/05/2012 - Breaking down barriers to gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship would create new sources of economic growth and help make better use of everyone’s skills, according to a new OECD report.


The report, to be discussed by Ministers attending the OECD Ministerial Meeting in Paris this week, analyses the causes of continuing inequalities and recommends measures governments can take to create a more level playing field.


“Meeting the challenge of delivering strong and sustainable long-term growth that benefits everyone can only be achieved if everyone is on board,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Giving men and women the opportunity to contribute at home and at work will boost growth and well-being and create a fairer society for all. (Read the full speech)”

Good progress has been made in education. Increased educational attainment is responsible for half of the GDP growth across the OECD over the last 50 years. Every extra year of education of the population leads to an average increase of around 9% in GDP per capita, says the report.


More progress will be essential for countries to benefit from the economic contributions women can make and to not waste the years of investment in the education of girls and young women.


Bringing more girls to higher levels of education is also key for developing countries. Making schools safer and affordable for everyone would boost attendance in lagging regions, notably Eastern, Middle and  Western Africa and Southern Asia.


In OECD countries, in 2009 nearly 60% of university graduate students were female. But men and women still choose different study and career paths. More than 75% of health and social science graduates are women, while some 70% engineering, manufacturing and construction graduates are men. New ways must be found to attract women to study and pursue careers in male-dominated sectors, which often offer better career and earnings prospects.


Employment rates are 13 percentage points lower for women than for men in OECD countries. Women are also much more likely to work part-time. Better and more affordable child care and more flexible work conditions are key to helping parents to be in paid work or increase hours and work full time, says the report.


Pay gaps also remain stubbornly high: on average in OECD countries women earn 16% less than men and female top-earners are paid on average 21% less. Across the OECD less than one-third of managers and only 10% of board members are women. 


Governments can help drive change, through policies and by setting an example by ensuring equality of opportunity in the public sector. Companies should review their corporate culture and working practices to give everyone the same chance to get ahead and make the best use of their talent.


Going forward, the OECD will develop specific recommendations and will rely on its well-know established methods of peer reviews to monitor and benchmark progress in the institutional, legal and economic frameworks to ensure gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship.


For more information, journalists should contact Monika Queisser (tel. + 33 1 45 24 96 34) or Willem Adema (tel. + 33 1 45 24 15 57) of the OECD’s Social Policy division.


>> The full report is available here.

>> More information on the OECD’s work on gender is available at


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