When Will Global Gender Gaps Close?


Alejandro Badel ; Rishi Goyal

Publication Date:

September 15, 2023

Electronic Access:

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On the current pace of reforms, global gender gaps are estimated to close, using deterministic (linear or log-linear) trends, over the next three centuries. This means that many women will likely not be able to fully use their abilities and talents, to the detriment of societies, for a long time. Yet this paper shows that, absent a significant step up in policy efforts, gender gaps may in fact never close. Using Markov chains, a common approach in macroeconomics, this paper analyzes the dynamics of the cross-country distribution of the gender gap in labor force participation. This methodology does not impose strong restrictions on the data, allowing for episodes of progress as well as regress by countries on gender inequality. Based on the experience of the past three decades, the analysis predicts a further narrowing of gender gaps over time. But the long-run distribution of gender gaps in labor force participation features a substantial share of countries with persistently large gaps, implying that—absent a strengthened and systematic policy effort—some of the current misallocation of women’s talents and abilities could persist perpetually.


Working Paper No. 2023/189





Publication Date:

September 15, 2023



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