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Tackle gender gap to boost growth, says OECD

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Rachel Salmon
WVoN co-editor

A new report argues that improving opportunities for women to learn, earn and do business is vital for economic growth.

The report, “Gender Equality in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship” by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also says that education will improve the well-being of men and women.

Although better education does not guarantee equality for women in the workplace, improved learning opportunities account for half of the growth in OECD countries in the past 50 years, says the report.

And whilst girls in developed countries are doing better than boys at school, too few study science and more needs to be done to break down stereotypes.

Fewer girls attend school than boys in developing countries. The report recommends financial incentives to encourage families to send their girls to school, as well as help with uniforms and school meals, safer transport and sanitary provision.

Women’s education is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ as educated women tend to marry later and encourage their own children to learn.

Cheaper childcare and learning to share household tasks will help more women work full-time and advance in their careers, says the report.

But businesses must also adopt more family-friendly practices like reducing long office hours, enabling staff to work from home and encouraging part-time workers to progress.

The report recommends the setting of quotas, similar to those in Norway, to boost the number of women in senior positions.

The advancement of women’s rights is vital in lifting developing countries out of poverty. Investment in women’s health, education and welfare yield the best results of all development initiatives, argues the report.

The number of women in work in OECD countries is increasing, but the proportion of businesses owned by women is stuck at around 30 per cent.

While a third of self-employed men have people working for them, only one fifth of female entrepreneurs have employees.

The report says this is because fewer women who start businesses have management experience and businesswomen work shorter hours than men.

Women often struggle to get loans or are charged higher interest rates because they have shorter credit histories or may lack the confidence to convince investors.

The OECD urges governments, particularly in developing countries, to introduce micro-credit schemes, so women can access small loans with low interest rates.

“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.”

The report will be discussed at an OECD ministers’ meeting in Paris this week.

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