Crippling cost of disparities

Updated - November 16, 2021 06:44 pm IST

Published - September 19, 2014 12:42 am IST

Redressing gender imbalances in employment could remedy the current climate of sluggish global economic recovery, the Labour Ministers of the Group of 20 countries were advised last week. This is perhaps the single most significant theme in the four joint reports issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Bank Group and the International Labour Organisation ahead of a meeting in Melbourne. One of them dwells on the implications of the unfolding demographic transition — ageing and fall in fertility rates. Whereas shrinkage in the size of the workforce on account of ageing may vary depending on the time of superannuation, declining fertility would invariably result in reductions in the number of new entrants to labour markets. The economic case for women’s participation in the workforce could not have been stronger, the report contends. Female employment rates — the share of employed women to the total number of women in the working age population — in the bloc have seen a steady rise, reaching 60 per cent in 2012. However, there are variations of more than 10 percentage points in 15 of the 20 countries. These range from 7 percentage points in Canada to over 50 points in India and Saudi Arabia. The proportion of youth who are not in education, employment or training, at 10 per cent in many countries, is a matter of concern for India’s women.

Recovery in the G20 is also threatened because, with over 100 million people unemployed and 447 million living on less than $2 a day, consumption and investment are constrained, argues a second report. These concerns are important not merely in instrumental terms; they reflect underlying informal conditions of employment and the low quality of jobs which run counter to inclusive growth, shows a third study. Further, the G20 countries account for about 70 per cent (1.3 million) of global deaths from occupational diseases and 221,000 fatal accidents annually. Recurrent industrial mishaps in India, China, Turkey and other emerging economies in the bloc underpin the sharp discrepancies in compliance with international safety standards. Addressing each of these challenging scenarios acquires urgency; not in the least, against the backdrop of the G20 target to reorient policies to realise a 2 per cent addition to overall gross domestic product in the next five years. As the forum brings together the governments of nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, its wide-ranging initiatives could potentially transform the global response to the most pressing challenges of this century. The meeting of G20 Finance Ministers that is coming up this weekend at Cairns cannot afford to dilute the focus. As such, G20 leaders, who are set to meet in Brisbane in November, should strive to impart greater momentum to the changes.

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