According to research, a country’s economy grows when women participate in the labor force. Not only has it been shown to increase organizational effectiveness and growth within businesses, but it also produces positive economic development outcomes.
According to Michelle Bachelet, the executive director of UN Women:
“When women are empowered and can claim their rights and access to land, leadership,
opportunities, and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced, and prospects are improved for current and future generations.”
Women face significant obstacles in joining the workforce, despite statistics and research. It’s prevalent in South Asian countries, where culture, religion, and societal norms are heavily influenced.
Although urbanized women in these regions are restricted from taking up jobs, rural women have been a part of the agricultural labor force long before.
Rural women have always worked in the fields alongside men and comprise 43 percent of the global agricultural workforce. The percentage goes up to as much as 70% in some regions.
Despite having one of the most significant gender gaps in labor force participation, agriculture has a nearly 50% female workforce.
Women from low-income countries form more of the agricultural sector than women from high-income countries.
At first glance, women in agricultural sectors may appear financially independent and secure.
However, the reality is quite different and harsh.
A lot of women are informally employed and remain unpaid for their work.
The primary role of women in these south Asian countries is that of caregivers.
Women are primarily responsible for caring for their children and elders, and their main focus is doing household chores. This unpaid labor does not form part of the country’s economy.
Not only do these women remain unpaid, but they are also overworked with very little or no economic remuneration.
Women face inequality as domestic chores go unpaid and unaccounted for. Women shouldering disproportionate responsibilities harm the economy and workforce participation.
Since women are less likely to take up full-time jobs because of their household responsibilities, they often work part-time to create a balance between work and home.
In countries like Pakistan and India, patriarchal norms dictate women’s lives. Despite living in cities, urbanized women account for 24% of the labor in workplaces.
Men are primarily responsible for putting food on the table and, in some cases, are the family’s sole earners. As women can not partake due to societal restrictions, it reduces workforce productivity and impacts economic growth and GDP.
Assume that women in these economies are encouraged to participate more and to seek employment. In that case, their household income will increase, and so will their living standards.
With the women in the family actively working, household spending is more likely to increase, as men won’t be the only breadwinner. That denotes an increase in product demand and, consequently, in economic activity.
Female financial empowerment allows women the liberty to spend and invest. More lavish spending in the economy adds to the capital stock and will likely boost GDP. It will also give rise to further economic growth and development.
According to the IMF, providing education to women in developing countries can boost a country’s economy. They suggested that educational opportunities contribute to:
“Reductions in fertility rates and increases in labor force participation rates, and in which thereby better quality of human capital of the future economy and generations.”
That means educated women are more likely to plan their families wisely, keeping their financial situation in mind. It’s one of the best ways to control the growing population.
Population growth strains a country’s natural resources, lowers per capita income, and raises unemployment in the long run.
Additionally, it gives women power over household income and how to spend it. It leads to greater control over their reproductive lives and their children’s education and health.
Moreover, this encourages the next generation to get an education and contribute new skills to the economy.
Although more women in the workforce are a solution to underdevelopment, they still need to be present in the labor force. A gender-inclusive workplace will boost GDP, reduce income inequality and pay gaps, and diversify the economy.
One hundred and four economies worldwide have laws prohibiting women from working in certain occupations. Moreover, 18 economies legally allow husbands to prevent their wives from working.
Despite the apparent advantages, many countries fail to take full advantage of the skills that women bring to the market.
Violence and sexual harassment also play a huge role in preventing women from working. Although this is a prominent issue for women in the workplace, 59 economies worldwide have no laws against workplace harassment.
The lack of legislation and implementation directly reflects on the country’s development and contributes to its economic costs.
Wage disparities are another major impediment to women working. Pakistan is infamous for its highest wage gap, i.e., 34%. When women are paid less for the same work as their male counterparts, they are more likely to be discouraged from working.
However, if strict minimum wages are imposed, women are less likely to face unnecessary wage gaps. Transparent pay practices will also solve the pay gaps to a significant extent.
In addition, the “motherhood wage penalty” creates obstacles for women to get jobs. Employers are hesitant to hire mothers and non-mothers due to paid maternity leave.
Unless these issues are brought up and talked about, women in developing countries will continue to face discrimination based on gender, as well as wage gaps. Informal employment is also another major issue that needs to be tackled.
Developing economies need their women to actively participate in the workforce to grow and continue to develop. Investment and spending are essential to improving a household’s living standards.
Following the patriarchal norms set by society will only create obstacles to economic growth and have adverse effects in the short and long runs.
Laws and policies protecting women should be introduced so that the issue of workplace harassment is solved to some extent.
When women feel safe in their workplaces, they are more inclined to work, contributing to the economy.