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Three official reasons why there's a huge global gender pay gap

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
The global gender pay gap will take 99.5 years to close, according to WEF data. Photo: Getty

Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) releases its highly-anticipated Global Gender Report, which takes a granular, statistical, and in-depth look at how businesses and governments are doing in making the world more balanced for men and women.

It found that the global gender pay gap will take more than a lifetime to close — clocking in at 99.5 years. While improvements have been made over the last year, mainly due to the increase of female representation in politics, economic participation (salaries, participation, and leadership) for women is getting worse.

The annual WEF Global Gender Report looks at the following pillars to assess parity between men and women:

  • Economic participation and opportunity — salaries, participation and leadership

  • Education — access to basic and higher levels of education

  • Political empowerment — representation in decision-making structures

  • Health and survival — life expectancy and sex ratio 

Under economic participation, which was dubbed “a major battlefield” by WEF, the group pointed out that the economic gender gap will now take 257 years to close, compared to 202 years last year.  

It identified three reasons why this has worsened:

  • Worst hit by robots — WEF found that women were more highly represented in jobs that have been hit hardest by automation. For example, retail and clerical jobs that have been replaced by technology.

  • Not entering the right industries — the group deduced that women are not entering the jobs that are seeing high growth in volume and salaries. “As a result, women in work too often find themselves in middle-low wage categories that have been stagnant since the financial crisis 10 years ago,” said WEF.

  • Lack of access to capital — women are less likely to get access to funding that allows them to pursue entrepreneurial activity, meaning that they also spend at least twice as much time on care and voluntary work in every country where data is available. 

READ MORE : Helena Morrissey: Many companies will have to 'go backwards to go forwards' to close the gender pay gap

Improving gender parity helps the economy. WEF pointed out that various studies have suggested “significant economic dividends” with greater equality between men and women. It said that economic gender parity could add an extra:

  • Increase in global GDP by $5.3 trillion by 2025;

  • $2.5 trillion to the GDP of China;

  • $250bn to the GDP of the UK;

  • $1,750bn to the US;

  • $550bn to Japan;

  • $320bn to France;

  • $310bn to Germany. 

“To get to parity in the next decade instead of the next two centuries, we will need to mobilise resources, focus leadership attention and commit to targets across the public and private sectors,” said Saadia Zahidi, head of the centre for the new economy and society and member of the managing board, WEF.

Business-as-usual will not close the gender gap – we must take action to achieve the virtuous cycle that parity creates in economies and societies.”