Gender Inequality and economic growth

Gender Inequality and economic growth

“Our social structure is one which anthropologists call a patriarchy. This literally means a society in which men rule. Patriarchy determines the values of our society. It helps construct our vision of reality” (Momen, 1994). Even though male female equality is one of the major talking points of the twenty first century, not much advancement has been made in this regard. Even in some of the most advanced countries like America and Canada, male female inequality exists in different forms. It should be noted that until now, no woman became the president of America. Moreover, most of the members holding the critical positions in American and Canadian administration are from the male community. The conditions of women in some of the fundamental societies like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan is pathetic even in the present century.  Nobody can forget the Malala incident which took place in Pakistan recently. In this incident a teenage girl Malala, was shot by Muslim fundamentalists because of her efforts to spread education among Muslim female girls in Pakistan. “Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck while she sat with classmates on a school bus as it prepared to drive students home after morning classes in Mingora”(Boone, 2012)

Even though we are living in an advanced society, the elements of patriarchy are still evident when it comes to the topics such as male female inequality. Stereotyping and employment discriminations against women at workplaces are growing at rapid pace. Instead of considering women as human being, some fundamental societies still consider them as commodities. In such societies they were treated as second class citizens. Their utility is perceived only for sexual activities in such societies.

Some people believe that gender inequality is the major reason behind the undergrowth of certain countries. Plenty of modern researches have proved the role of gender inequality in the underdevelopment of certain countries. This paper analyses the role of gender inequality in retarding the economic progress of a country.

How gender inequality affects economic growth?

Gender equality is a key factor in contributing to the economic growth of a nation. The United Nations Population Fund believe that economic growth and social equality should go hand in hand, arguing that “gender inequality holds back growth of individuals, development of countries, and the evolution of societies, to the disadvantage of men and women”. The discrimination against women remains a common occurrence in today’s society and serves to hinder economic prosperity. The empowerment of women through such things as the promotion of women’s rights and an increase in the access of women to resources and education proves to be key to the advancement of economic development. Namely, gender equality in the work force and in social relationships are the two primary factors that instill economic growth (Economic Growth, n.d.)

India and Pakistan are two neighbouring countries. It should be noted that both India and Pakistan are democratic countries though some people have disbelief about the credibility of Pakistan as a democratic country. Both the countries have nuclear arsenals, long range ballistic missiles and the potentials to become economically developed countries. India is emerging rapidly whereas Pakistan is struggling to do so.   One of the major reasons of India’s rapid economic progress and Pakistan’s slow progress is related to gender inequality. The conditions of women in India are far better than that of the women in Pakistan. There is no constraint for the Indian women in seeking education or taking part in social and economic activities. Nobody can forget the fact that India had a women president (Pratibha Patil) and a prime minister (Indira Gandhi) in the past. At present Indian parliament speaker is a female (Meera Kumar). Moreover, the current ruling coalition front (UPA) president is Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. It is a fact that Sonia has significant roles in controlling the administration. In short Women in India are able to contribute heavily to the progress of India as a country.

However, in Pakistan, women have lot of restrictions in taking part in social activities or economic activities. Women in Pakistan have limited opportunities in getting proper education. The Malala case is relevant here. The fundamentalists in Pakistan are not much interested in allowing women to get education or taking part in economic activities. Even though a female Benazir Bhutto became Pak president once, the general conditions of Pak women are pathetic. They are not able to work freely in factories or organizations.

According to David G¨umbel (2004), a bias in education directly impacts economic growth via lowering the average quality of human capital, and inequality in employment is also linked with lower growth (p.2). Women education is not encouraged in patriarchal societies such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Even though Saudi Arabia’s economic progress is phenomenal, the case is not so for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact Saudi was able to compensate for the loss of women productivity with the help of immense oil resources. In other words, it would have been easy for Saudi to develop further if they were able to increase the women productivity by improving the women educational standards. On the other hand, Afghanistan and Pakistan are struggling to develop their economy properly because of the lack of women education and subsequent inferior contributions from the women community to economic growth.

There is a correlation between a high GNP per capita and low gender inequality. Using different measures of gender inequality, such as biases in education, life expectancy, indices of legal and economic equality in society and marriage, and measures of women’s empowerments, scholars were able to prove that inequality can be to a considerable extent be explained by regional factors, civil freedom, and religious preference (G¨umbel, 2004, p.2).

Culture seems to be an important factor in increasing the gap between men and women. In Hindu and Christian culture, women are getting almost similar status with men whereas in Muslim culture, it is impossible for women to enjoy similar status with men. That is why majority of the women countries are struggling to develop properly. The Muslim countries which were able to develop properly were mainly the Gulf countries. However, natural resources helped these countries to develop in the right direction. On the other hand, India like countries was able to streamline economic growth in the right direction with the help of women community also.

Abundant manpower seems to be the most important factor in enhancing economic progress of countries such as India and China. It should be noted that China is the number one and India is number two in terms of population size in the world. Earlier, economists thought that population growth is one of the major barriers in front of these countries as far as economic progress is concerned. At present, it is proved that population size is helping these countries in the streamlining the economic progress. India and China are countries in which educated labour force (Both men and women) are abundant. These countries are currently supplying labour force to regions such as America and Europe. It should not be forgotten that Indra Nooi (an Indian woman) is the current CEO of American company PepsiCo. Moreover, manpower shortage forced countries such as America and Europe to outsource a substantial portion of their jobs to countries such as India. India and China like countries earn substantial portion of foreign money from outsourcing jobs. Majority of the employees working in Indian outsourcing or business process outsourcing (BPO) firms are educated women. Plenty of women nurses working in American and European hospitals are from India like countries. In short, the contributions of women community in India’s and China’s progress cannot be underestimated.

Men are just beginning to realize that the traditional definition of masculinity leaves them unfulfilled and dissatisfied. While women have left the home from which they were imprisoned by the ideology of separate spheres and now seek to balance work and family lives, men continue to search for a way back into the family from which they were exiled by the same ideology (Kimmel, 2011, p.267).

Economic development is evident in societies where women get more freedom. Work life balancing is one of the major problems facing by the women professionals. However, in societies where gender gap is less, women get more help from the men in keeping work life balancing. In such societies, men are ready to help women even in kitchen duties. It should be noted that single source income is not sufficient for meeting family expenses in many countries. It is necessary to allow women to work just like men to earn more income to meet family expenses. Coltrane (1998) pointed out that “Family roles will not be totally transformed, even if most people begin to question the rigid activities based on gender” (p.177).

Traditional belief is such that men are superior to women in terms of physical and mental power. It is a fact that men have superior physical strength compared to women. However, same thing cannot be said about mental strength. Women are capable of performing better than men while undertaking critical jobs.

Even though America is one of the most advanced and civilised countries in the world, they are not so, in terms of male female equality. Gender difference plays significant roles in American political and social lives. Stereotyping and employment discriminations against women at American workplaces are also growing. Beauty and sexuality will be projected more instead of intelligence, knowledge and experience, when people describe a stronger woman. For example, Sara Palin has contested the US vice presidential election recently.  Instead of discussing her abilities in administration, American media tried to exaggerate her physical attributes. The case of Hillary Clinton was also not much different. Even though she tried a lot to secure the presidential candidature, Democratic Party did not allow her to do so. Plenty of Americans still believe that a woman may not fit in the president post of America. In short, contribution of women in American economic growth is declining because of the above apprehensions about the abilities of women. The case is not much different in Canada also.

“According to a recent Annual World Economic Forum study, Canada lags behind Sri Lanka, Lesotho and Latvia at No. 20 in a global ranking of equality between men and women”(Canada ranks 20th in global gender equality study, 2011). One of the surprising facts about this finding is that Annual World Economic Forum has analyzed statistics from 134 countries and Canada secured 20 th place in the list. Canada is one of the most advanced and civilized countries in the world. Even same sex marriage is allowed legally in Canada at present. However, gender inequality at workplace, is a serious problem in Canada.  “On average, the estimated earned income for Canadian women is $28,315 compared with $40,000 for men”(Canada ranks 20th in global gender equality study, 2011). In other words, men and women in similar positions get different salaries in Canada. Canadian entrepreneurs are not ready to recognize or consider the contributions of women same way as they consider the contributions of men. In short, workplace discriminations against women in Canada are getting intensified as time goes on.

Gender wage gap is seen across the world. Even in advanced countries like Australia, America and Canada, gender wage gap exists. Gender wage gap is severe in Australia though Australians did succeed recently in appointing its first woman prime minister.

It is a well-established fact that occupations and industries staffed mainly with female workers pay lower wages to both men and women compared to predominantly ‘male’ occupations and industries. The observed persistent concentration of women in low-paid groups of workers, coined gender segregation, is therefore a key explanation for the existence of the gender wage gap (Jurajda, 2004, p.1).

“It is regularly reported that the top 200 companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange pay their female Chief Financial and Chief Operating Officers on average 50 per cent less than their male equivalents” (Dr. Stone, 2010). “The gender pay gap is the best way to measure pay inequality between men and women”(Closing the Gender Pay Gap, 2008, p.13). Stereotyping is the major reason for the gender pay gap. No country seems to be free from evil of stereotyping. Many people believe that discrimination at workplace is taking place with respect to skin colour or cultural backgrounds. However, discriminations in the form of unequal wages to men and women are prevailing everywhere in the world. In Australia, any effort made to “decrease the gender wage gap would be significantly associated with an increase in women’s hours of work” (Vidyattama et al, 2009, p.13). In other words, the efforts to reduce gender wage gaps result in another kind of discrimination in Australia. Women who want more salary should work more or stay back for overtime works in Australia. This is because of the myth prevailing in Australian organizational world that the productivity of men and women are different. According to a report released by National Centre of Social Economic Modeling (NATSEM) in 2010, the gender factor accounted for 60 per cent of the wage gap between men and women (Australia’s gender wage gap ‘costs $93b’, 2010).

“Social psychologists have demonstrated repeatedly that occupations associated with women or requiring stereotypically feminine skills are rated as less prestigious and deserving of less pay than occupations associated with men and masculine skills” (Lips, 2008). Even in this twenty first century, many organizations are reluctant in employing women in critical positions. It should be noted that the number of women CEOs in this world is extremely lesser than that of the men. In fact women have better abilities in working under pressure situations. Patience and temperament of the women community is generally more than that of the men community. However, plenty of myths still prevail in the organizational world about the abilities of women. Majority of the organizations are interested in providing only clerical jobs, secretary jobs and office administration jobs to the women. As a result of that women fail to deliver their true potentials in the organizational world.

“Women in the private services sector in particular are at high risk of low pay, but enjoy little protection from union coverage which is concentrated among private sector men and public sector women” (Jackson, 2004, p.1). The conditions of women professionals in public sectors are comparatively better than that in private sectors. It is difficult for women in private sectors to take part in trade union activities and fight for their rights. Male domination is visible at the top of trade unions also and as a result of that trade unions argue more for the rights of males rather than that of the females. Women are handicapped by the absence of proper bodies to raise their claims at workplaces which is exploited by the employers. Moreover, private organizations may not take the protests of women workers seriously. They know very well that it is easy for them to supress the agitations of women using force. Failure to achieve natural rights forces women professionals to work less for the betterment of their organizations. Thus the productivity of the women in private organizations is getting decreased as time goes on.

“Workplace discrimination can be explained by social cognition theory. Social cognition theory points that individuals automatically and unconsciously classify others into one of two groups: ingroup or outgroup” (Banerji, 2006, p.4). Women always be included in the outgroup list whereas men will be included in the ingroup. Societies have a habit of valuing the contributions of the ingroup more than that of the outgroup.  Thus the contributions of the women are often gone unnoticed whereas that of the men is projected more by the societies.

In Saudi Arabia like Muslim countries, women are not allowed to drive even their own vehicle. Though Saudi government has no problem in allowing the women to work in organizations, the government is not keen in providing enough freedom to the women professionals. As a result of that it is extremely difficult for the women professionals in Saudi to contribute heavily to the economic growth of the country. 

A review of literature suggests that the relationship between gender equality and economic growth is an asymmetrical one. The evidence that gender equality, particularly in education and employment, contributes to economic growth is far more consistent and robust than the relationship that economic growth contributes to gender equality in terms of health, wellbeing and rights. From a growth perspective, therefore, the promotion of certain dimensions of gender equality may appear to offer a win-win solution but from a gender equity perspective (Kabeer and Natali, 2013, p.3).

Plenty of debates are going on about the relationship between gender inequality and economic growth. Some people argue that gender inequality will be decreased when economic progress increases in a country. Many others are of the view that reduction of gender inequality is necessary to stimulate economic progress. In any case, it is a fact that there is close and direct relationship between gender inequality and economic developments. In other words, when economic conditions improve in a country, the conditions of the women also improve and vice versa. India and China like countries are examples to know the influence of gender equality in stimulating economic progress whereas Pakistan and Afghanistan are countries in which gender inequality slow down the economic progress.



Gender inequality prevents a country from attaining rapid economic growth. The contributions of women for the growth of a country’s economy are as important as the contributions of men. It is the duty of the governments to ensure that women are not facing any problems in taking part in social and professional activities so that the economic progress of the country will not be affected. Lack of education, workplace discriminations and gender wage gap are some of the problems preventing women from contributing to the economic growth of a country. In countries where these problems are less, women contribute heavily to the economic growth. India and China are developing rapidly at present because of their ability to exploit the abilities of women whereas Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing underdevelopment because of the reluctance of these countries in recognising the contributions of women for economic growth.


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