SINGAPORE: Advancing policies to improve women’s equality in Asia Pacific economies could add $4.5 trillion to the region’s collective GDP by 2025, according to a new study of 18 APAC markets.

McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the research arm of professional services firm McKinsey & Company, said that it would represent a 12% increase in economic performance on top of the 'business-as-usual' trajectory.

The study, entitled The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in Asia Pacific, estimates that 58% of that $4.5 trillion would come from raising the ratio of female-to-male labour force participation.

Another 25% would come from having more women working in higher productivity sectors, while a further 17% of the GDP opportunity would come from increasing women’s paid work hours.

“Already a powerful engine of global growth, pursuing the goal of gender parity can lift many more women out of poverty, unleash the economic potential of many others, and reinforce the region’s dynamic growth story,” the report said.

MGI based its findings on what it called a Gender Parity Score (GPS), which used 15 indicators of gender equality in work and wider society, on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 considered to be the gender equality parity point.

By this measure, the 18 countries emerged with an overall score of 0.56, slightly lower than the global average of 0.56, although there were wide variations across the region on specific indicators.

MGI said that Asia Pacific nations have made progress over the past decade, especially the Philippines in terms of gender equality at work, but a number of countries – including some advanced economies – have more work to do.

For example, on gender equality at work, New Zealand and Singpore also rank high, but the six countries furthest from gender parity in work are Bangladesh, India, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Korea.

Regarding gender equality in society, MGI said Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore are ahead of most in the region on essential services such as education, maternal and reproductive health, financial and digital inclusion, and legal protections.

But countries like Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan still have “a considerable distance to travel”, MGI noted, while also reporting that there is relatively low representation of women in leadership roles in Asia Pacific.

Worldwide, a little under four women hold leadership positions for every 10 men in business and politics, whereas in Asia Pacific there is only one woman in leadership positions for every four men.

The report concluded with a call for action across five key areas – a focus on higher female labour force participation; addressing women’s underrepresentation in business leadership roles; improving access to digital technology; shifting attitudes about women’s role in society; and collaboration on regional solutions for gender equality.

Sourced from McKinsey Global Institute; additional content by WARC staff