ABSTRACT

Introduction In the European Union gender equality has been recognised as a fundamental value in the Treaty of the European Union and implicitly as an economic good in the female employment rate and childcare targets of the recent Lisbon Process (EC 2009; see Chapter 8, this volume). Although gender equality is widely regarded as a worthwhile goal, it is also seen as having potential costs or even acting as a constraint on economic growth; while this view may not be evident in policy statements it remains implicit in policy decisions and practice. Times of economic crisis further encourage the view that equality is a ‘fair weather policy’, an option that is going to ‘cost something’ (for example, public expenditure associated with childcare provision) or entails additional regulation for business that could be to its detriment (such as various leave provisions, etc.). The view that equality is also a constraint or a cost has hampered its integration as a positive factor in policy development, particularly in the field of economic policy. This limiting view also has the effect of narrowing the scope of potential benefits from advances towards gender equality, focusing on the short term and relying on the status quo as the model with which to compare progress. Here we suggest that it is possible to make an economic case for gender equality to be treated as an investment, as a means to promote growth and employment rather than act as a cost or constraint. In line with this approach there have been an increasing number of policy and academic studies investigating the quantitative relationship between gender equality and economic growth (for example, Morrison et al. 2007; Hausmann et al. 2010). An economic approach might be considered spurious by some since gender relations are a set of social norms, values, conventions and rules that informally or formally regulate practical day-to-day relationships between men and women within a community and a society. However, key macroeconomic variables – savings, investment, human capital and distribution – are all affected by gender. An economic case for gender equality could be regarded as going a step further than the widely discussed business case (see, for example, Klarsfeld 2011; Kirton and Greene 2009). While the business case emphasises the need for equal treatment to reflect the diversity among potential employees and an

organisation’s customers, consideration of the economic case draws out the potential economic benefits at the meso and macro levels. An economic case stresses the wider economic benefits that span individuals, firms, regions and nations, and thus can address inequalities on the wider labour market which business case approaches have a necessarily more limited impact upon. This chapter is divided into five sections. Following this introduction, the second section discusses the distinction between the economic case and business case for gender equality, highlighting the potential weaknesses of an approach to equality based solely on business-related benefits. The third considers how economics as a discipline has dealt with gender (in)equalities and the potential weaknesses of orthodox economic approaches. The fourth section reviews some of the emerging literature on the economic benefits of gender equality from both supply-and demand-side perspectives, examining literature from both developed and developing countries. The fifth and final section discusses the implications of an integrated economic case.