Goldman says narrow gender gap will lift Aussie GDP by 8%

SYDNEY: Australia’s economy would be boosted by up to 8% if the employment gap between men and women narrowed further, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Workplace participation is still skewed toward males, despite progress over the past decade that sees Australia now sit in the top 10 OECD economies for female participation rates, an update of a report the investment bank first produced a decade ago showed.

“While a major lift in Australia’s female participation has been realised, a considerable gender gap persists,” said Andrew Boak, Goldman’s chief economist for Australia.

“This gap is evident in the under-representation of women on the boards of listed companies, in management roles, in politics, and in industries with empirically higher rates of labour productivity (including science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Stem).”

These disparities may partly explain persistent gender gaps across employee remuneration and superannuation wealth, the report title “Womenomics in Australia – Some Progress, but More Potential” found.

If female representation in Stem industries was lifted, the economy could be “supercharged” by a further 10%, Goldman said.

On the positive side, Australia’s gender participation gap of 10 percentage points is significantly narrower than the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development average of 17 percentage points, the bank said.

Since 2009, the number of women in the workforce has increased by 3 percentage points to a record 61.25%, boosting gross domestic product by about 2%, the report found.

In a speech Tuesday, central bank No 2 Guy Debelle noted that Australia’s record labour force participation had been driven by women and older workers. Female employment growth accounted for two-thirds of employment growth over the past year, he said.

To improve gender diversity, Goldman recommends better paid parental leave, improving access to affordable childcare, encouraging female entrepreneurship and innovation, and allowing mothers access to superannuation and/or tax credits to smooth consumption.

For companies, “there is still much progress to be made”, in work flexibility, mentoring female leaders, policies that improve visibility and action on the gender pay gap, it said.