Closing the Gender Gap Can Help the Economy, Report Says

By Alden WickerLearnVest

We don’t need to say that women earn less than men. But today we have more proof that the gender wage gap matters to everyone—men and women alike.

A new report out from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (the OECD) says that decreasing the gender gap–that is, paying women on par with what men make–would help the economy. Just closing the gap by 50% would increase the GDP of OECD countries (34 developed countries from Japan to the United States to Estonia) by 0.3%.

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The report cites a few big factors that hold women back from achieving parity, most notably child care. (If you’re a working mom, this is old news to you.) A woman who lives in Australia, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, the U.K. or the U.S. that returns to work after giving birth will see 65% or more of her salary gobbled up by child care costs, which makes working seem almost pointless and convinces many women to drop out of the workforce. It’s no wonder that while the wage gap between childless men and women is at 7%, the gap widens to 22% for families with children.

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Increasing wages for females isn’t just charity work–it benefits everyone. “For the economy, it makes sense if you use all of that talent, and don’t let a situation develop where the best part of the population isn’t using that talent in the labor market,” one of the report’s leading authors, Willem Adema, said.

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While we’ve cited supporting child care costs as a huge step toward achieving gender equality before, the U.S. spends just 0.4% of its GDP on child care support, while OECD countries spend an average of 0.7%.

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The OECD report also pointed out that while females are more educated and outperform males in member countries, women earn 10% less than men by the time they are 30.

So, after we get all this fiscal cliff business out of the way, let’s again urge lawmakers and the president to take at least one of these six real steps that could close the gender gap.