IMF warns of slow progress achieving gender equality

Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:02pm EDT
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By Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Progress toward achieving gender equality around the globe has stalled in recent years, with women still holding fewer salaried jobs than men and receiving lower wages for their work, the IMF said in a study on Monday.

Under its first female chief, Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund has renewed its push to strengthen the role of women in the economy, arguing it can raise growth prospects and improve development.

Just having as many women in the labor force as men could boost economic growth by 5 percent in the United States, 9 percent in Japan, and 34 percent in Egypt, the IMF said.

In its study, the Fund said women have made gains in certain countries but still face discrimination and tax and labor policies that discourage them from working.

Around the world, half of women participate in the labor force, but that number falls to just a fifth in places like the Middle East and North Africa.

The gap between men and women in the labor force has narrowed since 1990, and women now account for 40 percent of the global pool of labor. But in Japan, for example, 25 percent fewer women participate in the labor force than men.

Lagarde said it has been difficult to sustain momentum after the great progress on gender equality since the 1950s.

"There's an element of maybe fatigue, maybe déjà vu, maybe we should go back to business because we've made so much progress," she said in an interview.   Continued...

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde delivers remarks during a Peterson Institute for International Economics forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst