If women’s level of employment were raised to the same level as men’s, U.S. GDP would be 5 percent higher, according to a report from Catalyst.
While India would see an enormous 27 percent gain and the United Arab Emirates would increase by 12 percent, a 5 percent gain in U.S. GDP would represent an extra $854 billion in the economy.
But the country has not been making great strides toward getting more women into the labor force. Since 1990, 21 other developed countries decreased the gap between the labor force participation rate for men and women from 30 points to just 13, while the U.S. has only closed its gap by a few percentage points. So few women have been entering the workforce that while the country used to rank six among the others for women’s labor force participation, it now ranks at 17. The other countries bumped their rates up to an average of nearly 80 percent, while the U.S. is at about 75 percent. In fact, women’s share of the workforce peaked in the late 90s or early 2000s, depending on age, race, or education.
The difference between the United States and the other countries mainly comes down to family friendly policies. If the country had passed paid family leave, spent more on childcare, and made it easier for workers to go part time since the 1990s, women’s participation rate would be 82 percent.
But the country, of course, hasn’t done those things. It is one of just three countries out of 178 that doesn’t guarantee that all women can take paid maternity leave for the arrival of a new child. The amount the country spends on child care assistance just hit a decade low. And while San Francisco and Vermont have passed laws that give workers the right to request a more flexible work schedule, workers in other places don’t have such a right.