Reducing childcare costs could boost GDP, says OECD 

If women remained working in similar numbers to men, annual growth rates in GDP per capita would rise by 0.5 percentage points in the UK by 2030, according to an OECD report.

The boost to economic growth would be even higher if women’s working hours increased too, says the report. It calls on the government to facilitate the increase of working hours among women, and especially mothers, starting with more affordable high-quality childcare services.

The Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now report says gender parity in educational participation is now the norm in the United Kingdom: both young women and men participate to similar levels in upper secondary (82% of women and men aged 25-34 years) and tertiary (47% of women and 43% of men aged 25-34 years) education. But women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology and maths (only 19% of computing and 23% of engineering graduates are female), it states.

Greater educational participation has also been matched by increased labour force participation, it says, adding that 70% of women in the UK are now employed or seeking employment. But 40% of those employed are working part time due to women struggling to balance work and family commitments. This contributes greatly to the 18% gender wage gap, says the OECD.

The OECD states: “The high costs of childcare continue to be a barrier for many seeking full-time work. In the UK, before accounting for childcare, the cost of entering work for an average-wage family’s second earner is lower than the OECD average. But after accounting for childcare, over two-thirds of the family’s second wage (68%) is effectively taxed away, a rate that is well above the OECD average (52%).”

The report also says entrepreneurial activity is low among women in the UK, with less than 2% of working women being business owners. It says: “Entrepreneurship can provide more flexible working hours for mothers juggling work and family. However, data show that currently self-employed women work fewer hours and have a larger earnings gap than women in dependent employment.”

However, the report also shows that women in the UK often fare better than others across the OECD in terms of career progression. Over 35% of managers and senior managers in the UK are women, compared with an OECD average of around 32%. However, it says, this fails to translate into women occupying the very top positions within companies; only 8% of board members among listed companies in the UK are women, below the OECD average of 10%.

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