Improving female labour participation across the OECD could boost GDP by US$6trn - PWC

Improving female participation in the workforce across OECD countries could boost total GDP by US$6trn, according to a new report by PwC.

Analysing the representation and welfare of women in the world of work across 33 OECD countries, PwC’s latest Women in Work Index also found that the OECD could gain US$2trn by closing the gender pay gap.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 36 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.

The five indicators measured in the Women in Work Index are the gender pay gap, female labour force participation, the pay gap between male and female labour force participation, female unemployment and female full-time employment.

In the latest index, Iceland and Sweden remained the top two performing OECD countries, while New Zealand joined the top three for the first time since the Index was first published in 2013. Norway slipped to 5th place, having been overtaken by Slovenia.

South Africa is not a member of the OECD, but PwC said the findings of the study should not be disregarded locally. SA has made important progress, PwC said, but should also look at remaining obstacles that could stimulate economic growth.

"While the focus of the Index is on the OECD countries, we should not underestimate the contribution that South Africa has made in economically empowering women.

"Despite considerable progress being made, there is still room for further improvement in female employment prospects," said Shirley Machaba, Diversity & Inclusion Leader for PwC Africa.

It is important to develop an environment that allows women to thrive in the labour market, PwC added.

"A recent PwC Strategy& analysis of economic data from Statistics South Africa and the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggests that closing the gender gap in both pay and representation by just 10% could deliver an additional 3.2% in GDP growth and a 6.5% reduction in the number of unemployed jobseekers," it said in a statement on Friday.

South Africa does have legislation in place to address gender discrimination in the workplace, and ranks among the top countries in the world for its percentage of female representation in Parliament. In 2018, Mexico was in the lead, with just under 50% of its Parliamentarians being women.

However, in SA, after Maria Ramos retired as Absa CEO, not one female CEO was left in the top 40 companies listed on the JSE.

The female representation at senior management and executive levels in South Africa is still on average only at 20%, as reported in PwC’s REMchannel® July 2018 publication. 

The survey consists of remuneration data for more than 550 participating organisations and just over 4000 senior managers and executives. The data also indicates that 61% of the females are remunerated below the median of the sample in comparison to 39% of males. 

In contrast, 63% of males are remunerated above the median in comparison to 37% of females in the sample. PwC’s latest Non-Executive Directors Report, 2019 also finds that female representation among non-executive directors is only 20%.

"Women therefore remain underrepresented in leadership positions," PwC said.

Lullu Krugel, Chief Economist for PwC Strategy& Africa, said: "International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the urgency for closing global and local economic gender imbalances.

"The economic reasons alone support the case for expediting our progress towards female gender equality. Efforts by corporates and government to promote gender equality and female participation in the workforce can generate significant economic gains for the country."

International Women's Day is on March 8.

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