In Liberia, women are the bedrock of the economy and of society, comprising 50 percent of the labor force, supplying 76 percent of labor for cash crop production and 93 percent of the labor for food crop production. Despite this, women are systematically excluded from fully participating in the labor market, as they are clustered in lower productivity and lower earning sectors.
Where would Liberia be in terms of development if women were to have similar political, social and economic opportunities as men?
A new working paper published by the World Bank uses macroeconomic, demographic and survey data from Liberia to estimate the “gender dividend,” or the economic contributions of women — and the societal costs incurred by excluding them.
- Women were responsible for 39 percent of market-based output produced annually in 2020, equal to $1.08 billion, and contributed another $530 million in non-tradable sources of production, namely, housework and domestic chores.
- If the gender gaps in labor force participation, intra-sectoral wages and sector of employment were closed, gross domestic product (GDP) would be 11.5 percent higher.
- If further reforms were undertaken to equalize education and reduce fertility rates, GDP would be 23.7 percent higher.
- Accounting for the value of non-tradable production, GDP would be $5.89 billion, or 45.3 percent higher than today’s estimates, with women being responsible for 53 percent of the labor market output.
The bottom line: States like Liberia should recognize the rights and well-being of women as equal and productive members of society and work to integrate them as such into the labor market.
- Mahesh Karra, Assistant Professor of Global Development Policy, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University: “Women make significant contributions to Liberia’s economy, accounting for 39 percent of the country’s market-based output. In addition, women would contribute even more to Liberia’s economic output, and output itself would be almost 50 percent higher, if gender gaps in labor force participation, educational attainment and wages earned were closed. Our findings highlight the need for policies that recognize and serve to promote the rights and well-being of women as equal and productive members of society.”