PwC report shows UK in 13th place for gender equality, up one place since last year.
The UK could boost its GDP by £178 billion if it matched Sweden’s level of female employment, according to a new analysis.
The analysis of 33 OECD countries by PwC puts the UK at 13th place and second out of the G7 countries, behind Canada. The UK has risen from 17th position in 2000.
Sweden is the second best performing country, behind Iceland, and 69% of women there work, compared to 57% of UK women.
The Women in Work Index also finds that closing the UK gender pay gap by increasing female average wages to match their male counterparts would increase female earnings by £92 billion, a rise of 20%.
While the UK has improved across all five indicators of female economic empowerment this year, progress has not been evenly spread across the regions, according to the report. Scotland tops the index with a strong performance across the board. The South West comes second due to the highest female labour force participation rate, with little gap between males and females. The bottom two places are occupied by the East Midlands and West Midlands, primarily due to high female unemployment rates and large gaps between male and female labour force participation rates. London is in ninth place. PwC says it has consistently been the region with the highest female full-time employment rate, but its performance is held back by the pay gap which has barely budged since 2010.
Yong Jing Teow, a senior economist at PwC, said: “The variation in performance across the UK shows how the makeup of each region’s economy influences female economic opportunity. The top three performing regions have large hospitality sectors and a high concentration of public sector jobs, which tend to have more balanced representation. To help the UK as a whole improve further we need to tackle local issues, a one size fits all approach isn’t going to work.”
This year, for the first time, PwC looked at what two of the world’s most populous countries, China and India, stand to gain by promoting gender equality and female participation in the workforce. It found that closing the 25% gender pay gap in China would generate a 34% increase in female earnings, equivalent to $2 trillion. In India, it says increasing female employment rates to the same level as Sweden would generate a $7 trillion boost to GDP, which is equivalent to approximately 79% of India’s GDP.
The Index shows Nordic countries continue to perform well, supported by larger government spending on family benefits such as affordable childcare, which helps to reduce the gender pay gap and increase female employment.
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said: “This research shows that an area of weakness for the UK is the number of women in full-time employment. Employers can help address this by supporting women returning to the workplace and creating a culture where ambition and progression is encouraged at all levels. It’s also important to remember that policies such as flexible working need to benefit men just as much as women. This will help balance some caring responsibilities traditionally held by women and, over time, should increase the number of women who enter – and stay – in the workforce.”