DIRECTOR-GENERAL NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
Empowering women economically through decent jobs and trade can lead to increased global development and economic growth, DG Okonjo-Iweala said. Trade creates jobs and market opportunities for women and the businesses they run and serves as a driver of economy-wide growth in the countries that most urgently need it, she added.
But “we have left much of this power unharnessed,” she noted. “We can do so much more to leverage trade to create economic opportunities for women.”
The Director-General pointed to an International Monetary Fund study estimating that closing the gender gap in the labour markets of many developing countries could raise GDP by as much as 35 per cent.
“The key takeaway is clear: the opportunity costs of gender inequality in the labour market — the economic gains we choose to forego by allowing those inequalities to persist — are immense,” she declared. “They are in the same ballpark as the economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Director-General noted a recent joint study on trade and gender equality by the WTO and World Bank which found that trade generates more and better jobs and job opportunities for women. Companies that export employ more women, and firms integrated into global trade and global value chains have a higher average female labour share than those focused on the domestic market.
To truly maximize trade's contribution to improving the lives of women and girls, however, “we have to tackle the reality that many poor countries have been left out of the gains from trade and globalization these past few decades,” the Director-General said.
“The current re-think on supply chain resilience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine creates a window of opportunity to bring these poor countries from the margins of the global economy to the mainstream,” she declared. “Expanding this process of what I call ‘re-globalization’ would accomplish objectives that ‘de-globalization’ cannot.”
The Director-General's full lecture can be viewed here.