By Tiffany Hsu
11:48 AM CST, December 17, 2012
Governments looking to jump-start their GDP should look to women, especially as the current working population ages, according to a new report from a key global group.
Narrowing the gender gap will help countries become more productive, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or the OECD.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, women continue to struggle to break the glass ceiling, balance a job with motherhood and sustain careers as long as men.
The average female worker earns 16% less than a male counterpart, according to the OECD report. The top end of the male pay scale still has a 21% lead on the female equivalent. In families with children, that’s a 22% gap between men and women – a chasm that tightens to 7% for childless couples.
“Closing the gender gap must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable economies and inclusive societies,” said Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the OECD, when introducing the report.
He urged governments to back more education for women, offer financing options for female-run companies, improve the tax and benefits system to support women’s wages and work to make child care more affordable for working mothers.
Child care costs currently eat up more than half of a family’s second wage in OECD countries, consuming 65% in Australia, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. and often dissuading women from giving up time with their children in order to work.
With fewer years in formal employment, women end up retiring with lower pensions. And since they live nearly six years longer than men on average, women over the age of 65 are more than one and a half times more likely to end up in poverty.
The disparity starts early, according to the OECD. Girls tend to outperform boys in schools, but rarely choose to focus on science or technology subjects. They enter the workforce better qualified than men, but are earning 10% less by the time they’re 30 years old.