Reviewing the Evidence for Links between Gender Equality and Economic Growth

Professor Naila Kabeer. Photo: Arthur,

Naila Kabeer and Luisa Natali recently published a review for the Institute of Development Studies into the two-way relationships between gender equality and economic growth, across sectors and countries. They reviewed studies of labour market participation in different sectors and services, earnings and well-being and rights. Their conclusion is that the relationship between gender equality and economic growth is asymmetric, with gender equality tending to improve economic growth but economic growth not leading to gender equality without concerted efforts on inclusive growth. The review also delves into available evidence for different outcomes in different sectors. Whereas the fishery sector is not touched on, results for agriculture are revealing. such as that greater gender equality in the agricultural labour force contributes to greater economic growth, but this effect does not apply to greater gender equality in agricultural management. Also, economic growth did seem to stimulate female labour force participation for value added industry growth in agriculture (and other sectors). This result certainly resonates with experience in many commodities in fisheries and aquaculture.

The review is called “Gender Equality and Economic Growth: Is there a Win-Win?“, by Naila Kabeer and Luisa Natali, IDS Working Paper 417. (2013)

Read the review and find out more! It can be downloaded at:


To what extent does gender equality contribute to economic growth? And to  what extent does the reverse relationship hold true? There are a growing number of studies exploring these relationships, generally using cross-country regression analysis. They are characterised by varying degrees of methodological rigour to take account of the problems associated with econometric analysis at this highly aggregated level, including the problems of reverse causality. Bearing these problems in mind, a review of this literature suggests that the relationship between gender equality and economic growth is an asymmetrical one. The evidence that gender equality, particularly in education and employment, contributes to economic growth is far more consistent and robust than the relationship that economic growth contributes to gender equality in terms of health, wellbeing and rights. From a growth perspective, therefore, the promotion of certain dimensions of gender equality may appear to offer a win-win solution but from a gender equity perspective, there is no guarantee that growth on its own will address critical dimensions of gender equality. Either growth strategies would need to be reformulated to be more inclusive in their impacts or redistributive measures would need to be put in place to ensure that men and women benefit more equally from growth.