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Peace and Security Depends on Closing the Workforce Gender Gap

by Xanthe Scharff September 4, 2023

As COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and daycare, huge numbers of women left the workforce as women took on more unpaid caregiving and home-schooling responsibilities than men. They haven’t come back. 

Workforce parity is at its second-lowest point since the World Economic Forum issued its first Gender Gap Index in 2006. That’s a peace and security problem.

Going from women in the workplace to a world at war may seem like a huge leap, but it’s not. We know that gender equity boosts economic growth and engenders financial stability. Economic cohesion makes societies more resistant to conflict, studies show.

This Labor Day, times are tough. The International Monetary Fund predicts an anemic 2.3% global growth in 2023. The World Bank predicts long-term slippage in global economic prosperity as inflation hovers at 7%. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has destabilized energy and food prices. Around the world, women are bearing the uneven burden of inflation.

If we want to boost productivity and jumpstart growth, we need to tap the full power of the population. The World Economic Forum’s analysis of 102 countries in 2022 found that just 62.9% of women participated in the workforce. In some countries, closing the gap in women’s labor force participation could increase economic output by an average of 35%, according to the International Monetary Fund.

We need women to come back to work in force, and we need economic policies worldwide that ensure we value the contributions of women as much as those of men. 

In July 2022, the International Monetary Fund approved its first Strategy Toward Mainstreaming Gender into the IMF’s core activities, recognizing that well-designed economic, structural and financial policies that support equity for women and girls end up benefiting society as a whole.

The Fuller Project is taking a hard look at some of the monetary policies that hold women back. A recent story examined how success at work can push women off a “benefits cliff,” leaving them with a salary too high for benefits, such as subsidized housing, but too low to afford their rent. A Fuller Project story published in The Guardian examined how domestic abusers harness weaknesses in the banking and financial systems to exert economic abuse on their spouses.Today, on Labor Day, as we recognize the social and economic achievements of workers, recognize also that we have the potential to achieve so much more.  With the right tools in place, women can become equal economic contributors, enabling fragile economies to move toward stability.

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