The British economy is not faring well: it only narrowly avoided a triple dip recession recently and unemployment is at 7.8 percent. One factor that could give it a huge boost would be increasing the number of women in its workforce, according to a new report from the government’s Women’s Business Council.
If British women participated in the labor force at the same rate as men, the country’s GDP growth would increase by 0.5 percentage points a year, potentially getting a 10 percent boost by 2030, the study reports. The desire is there: 2.4 million more women want to work and 1.3 million are looking for more hours.
But the study outlines some of the obstacles in their way. Unemployment for women in the country remains high during the recovery period. As in the United States, while girls are getting more and more education, they tend to graduate into very different jobs than men that often pay less. Women need more flexible work schedules and increased maternity leave to ease the return to work after having children. Childcare costs are high. And women struggle to make it to the top ranks, making up just a third of high-level employees.
The U.K. isn’t the only country recognizing that tapping women workers is a smart way to boost economic growth. One pillar of so-called Abenomics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to jump start Japanese growth, is to increase the number of women in the country’s work force.
The U.S. could similarly benefit. Its economy would be about a quarter smaller if women hadn’t entered the workforce in droves. Yet it is now falling behind its developed peers in the share of women in the workforce thanks to a lack of spending on child care, poor parental leave policies, and no protections for those who seek part-time work. If it enacted stronger policies in those areas, women’s labor force participation rate could jump by 6.8 percentage points. That would give the economy a big boost.