Embargo: 00:01 hours Sunday 4 April 2004
GENDER DISCRIMINATION STRONGLY INHIBITS
Excluding women from managerial positions or indeed any labour market activity is
clearly damaging for economic growth, according to new research by Berta Esteve-
Volart, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s Annual Conference this
Her research examines the implications for economic development of gender
discrimination, analysing it first as the exclusion of women from managerial positions,
and second as the complete exclusion of women from the labour market.
The study uses data on the gender composition of the workforce by class from sixteen
states of India for the period 1961-91 to reveal that:
• Excluding women from managerial positions clearly hinders economic development.
The intuition behind this result is that when there is discrimination in the sense that
women face barriers to becoming managers, the managerial talent that is inherent in
women is not efficiently used, so that the quality of managers in the economy – that
is, their average managerial talent – is lower than without discrimination.
• At the same time, if there are social norms that make it difficult for women to work
outside the home even in unskilled positions, then economic development is lower
too, partly because of the lower education of women.
• The economic costs of discrimination against women in the labour market are big: a
10% increase in the female-to-male ratio of managers increases GDP per capita by
2%, while a 10% increase in the female-to-male ratio of total workers increases
GDP per capita by 8%.
• In particular, if all Indian states had had the labour market figures of Karnataka (a
state that has relatively high ratios of female-to-male managers and female-to-male
total workers), GDP per capita would have been more than 30% higher over the
Women around the world face relatively larger barriers in gaining access to skilled
positions in the labour market. Data from the International Labour Office for 1995 show
that even in the 30 most developed countries in the world, the average percentage of
female managers is less than 30%. For Africa and Asia, rates are lower than 15%.
Moreover, women usually have a more restricted access to the overall formal labour
market: female labour activity rates for 1999 are as low as 9% for Oman, 11% for Iraq,
15% for Jordan, 23% for Egypt and lower than 30% for India.
Though the unequal participation by gender in the labour market has been assessed
from various points of view, its economic implications have not been extensively
studied. In particular, this is the first study of the aggregate costs of discrimination that
is not based on cross-country regressions.
The Indian data make it possible to examine the impact of gender discrimination within
a country. On the one hand, relative participation of women in the labour market by
class has been generally lower in the northwestern states of India (which are more
patriarchal and feudal and where women are less able to move in and out of the house)
than in southern states (where generally women have relatively more freedom and a
more prominent presence in society). On the other hand, during this time relative
participation within states has changed a bit.
Notes for Editors: ‘Gender Discrimination and Growth: Theory and Evidence from
India’ by Berta Esteve-Volart will be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2004
Annual Conference at the University of Wales Swansea on Tuesday 6 April.
The author is at the London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A
For Further Information:
Before and after the conference: contact Berta Esteve-Volart on 020-7852-3533 (email:
B.Esteve-Volart@lse.ac.uk); or RES Media Consultant Romesh Vaitilingam on 0117-
983-9770 or 07768-661095 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
During the conference (5-7 April 2004): contact Romesh Vaitilingam on 07768-661095