Gender and Economics

Despite significant progress in recent decades, labor markets across the world remain divided along gender lines. Female labor force participation has remained lower than male participation, gender wage gaps are high, and women are overrepresented in the informal sector and among the poor. In many countries, legal restrictions persist which constrain women from developing their full economic potential.

While equality between men and women is in itself an important development goal, women's economic participation is also a part of the growth and stability equation. In rapidly aging economies, higher female labor force participation can boost growth by mitigating the impact of a shrinking workforce. Better opportunities for women can also contribute to broader economic development in developing economies, for instance through higher levels of school enrollment for girls.

Presentation: IMF Gender Experience

Gender Budgeting and Gender Equality Database

Videos on Gender


Q1. Which region had the biggest increase in women’s educational attainment over the last 20 years?

A) Asia and Pacific
B) Europe
C) Latin America

Find the answer

It’s the Asia and Pacific Region, where the ratio of women in secondary education surpassed Europe by 2014.

Q2. How many countries have introduced an initiative to promote women’s equality in the annual budget?

A) Fewer than 30
B) 30 – 50 countries
C) More than 50

Find the answer

Our new series of working papers provides information on almost 60 countries that have introduced gender budgeting.

Q3. Which of the following countries put measures into the annual budget to promote gender equality?

A) Rwanda
B) Belgium
C) Mexico

Find the answer

All of the above. Rwanda, in particular, integrated gender goals throughout its budget and into its public financial management system. It also put in place an effective monitoring of its progress.

#IMFGender Stories

In February 2016, the IMF launched an online campaign for innovative women to share their stories under the hashtag #IMFGender. The stories we received were powerful and inspirational. Women are using every tool possible to advance and lift-up their communities. Below are some of the inspiring stories women shared with us:

Maria Umar

Maria Umar

Pakistan— Founder and President of The Digital League

Read her story

The person. Maria is from Pakistan and is involved with capacity training in a remote northern area of Pakistan in partnership with a local NGO. In the first 2 months they have trained over 200 locals in various online work skills. In addition, Maria is an advisor to Think Global Institute, a nonprofit global business accelerator. Maria also fills the role of mentor and inspired leader.

The Initiative: Training rural Pakistani Women in micro online tasks. The organization focuses on all kinds of computer-based services such as affordable content writing, virtual assistance, Facebook/Blackberry/iPhone apps, CRM systems, CMS systems, website development, and videography to clients all over the world.

Marcela Alves

Marcela Alves

Brazil—Co-founder of Empowerit team

Read her story

The person. Marcela is a software developer at the Institute of Projects and Research of the Ceará State University in Brazil. She graduated in Computer Science in 2015, with an exchange program at Arizona State University.

The Initiative: She created an application that connects corporations with female entrepreneurs. Marcela Alves and her partner Brenda Miranda created an online tool called Empower-it. It is designed to help corporations connect with women entrepreneurs to do business with each other. The applications allow women to register their business and make the first contact based on the results of searches done through some specific filters such as sectors of industry or company certification.

Lina Ben Mhenni

Lina Ben Mhenni

Tunisia — The blogger of the Jasmine revolution

Read her story

The person. Lina is a blogger and activist who had a prominent role during the Tunisia revolution. She has been awarded the Deutsche Welle International Blog Award and El Mundo’s International Journalism Prize.

The Initiative: The blogger of the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia. She was one of the few bloggers who was able to blog from ground zero of the revolution in Tunisia. Through her accounts and photos, she managed to mirror the situation inside the country in the media worldwide.


Countercyclical Fiscal Policy and Gender Employment: Evidence from the G-7 Countries

January 11, 2019
Would countercyclical fiscal policy during recessions improve or worsen the gender employment gap? We give an answer to this question by exploring the state-dependent impact of fiscal spending shocks on employment by gender in the G-7 countries. Using the local projection method, we find that, during recessions, a positive spending shock of 1 percent of GDP would, on average, lift female employment by 1 percent, while increasing male employment by 0.6 percent. Consequently such a shock would improve the female share of employment by 0.28 percentage point during recessions. Our findings are driven by disproportionate employment changes in female-friendly industries, occupations, and part-time jobs in response to fiscal spending shocks. The analysis suggests that fiscal stimulus, particularly during recessions, could achieve the twin objectives of supporting aggregate demand and improving gender gaps.

Economic Gains From Gender Inclusion : New Mechanisms, New Evidence

October 8, 2018
While progress has been made in increasing female labor force participation (FLFP) in the last 20 years, large gaps remain. The latest Fund research shows that improving gender diversity can result in larger economic gains than previously thought. Indeed, gender diversity brings benefits all its own. Women bring new skills to the workplace. This may reflect social norms and their impact on upbringing and social interactions, or underlying differences in risk preference and response to incentives for example. As such, there is an economic benefit from diversity, that is from bringing women into the labor force, over and above the benefit resulting from more (male) workers. The study finds that male and female labor are imperfect substitutes in production, and therefore gender differences in the labor force matter. The results also imply that standard models, which ignore such differences, understate the favorable impact of gender inclusion on growth, and misattribute to technology a part of growth that is actually caused by women’s participation. The study further suggests that narrowing gender gaps benefits both men and women, because of a boost to male wages from higher FLFP. The paper also examines the role of women in the process of sectoral reallocation from traditional agriculture to services and the resulting effect on productivity and growth. Because FLFP is relatively high in services, sectoral reallocation along development paths serves to boost gender parity and productivity.

Gender, Technology, and the Future of Work

October 8, 2018
New technologies?digitalization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning?are changing the way work gets done at an unprecedented rate. Helping people adapt to a fast-changing world of work and ameliorating its deleterious impacts will be the defining challenge of our time. What are the gender implications of this changing nature of work? How vulnerable are women’s jobs to risk of displacement by technology? What policies are needed to ensure that technological change supports a closing, and not a widening, of gender gaps? This SDN finds that women, on average, perform more routine tasks than men across all sectors and occupations?tasks that are most prone to automation. Given the current state of technology, we estimate that 26 million female jobs in 30 countries (28 OECD member countries, Cyprus, and Singapore) are at a high risk of being displaced by technology (i.e., facing higher than 70 percent likelihood of being automated) within the next two decades. Female workers face a higher risk of automation compared to male workers (11 percent of the female workforce, relative to 9 percent of the male workforce), albeit with significant heterogeneity across sectors and countries. Less well-educated and older female workers (aged 40 and above), as well as those in low-skill clerical, service, and sales positions are disproportionately exposed to automation. Extrapolating our results, we find that around 180 million female jobs are at high risk of being displaced globally. Policies are needed to endow women with required skills; close gender gaps in leadership positions; bridge digital gender divide (as ongoing digital transformation could confer greater flexibility in work, benefiting women); ease transitions for older and low-skilled female workers.

Closing Gender Gaps in India: Does Increasing Womens’ Access to Finance Help?

September 28, 2018
Gender gaps in womens’ economic opportunities—labor market and entrepreneurship—have remained high in India. Lack of adequate collateral limits women entrepreneurs’ ability to access formal finance, leaving them to rely on informal sources, constraining their growth. A small-open economy DSGE model is built to investigate the long-run macroeconomic impacts from closing gender gaps in financial access. Results suggest that an increase in women entrepreneurs access to formal credit results in higher female entrepreneurship and employment, which boosts India’s output by 1.6 percent. However, regulations and gender-specific constraints in the labor market limit potential gains as females’ access to quality jobs in the formal sector remains restricted. The paper shows that the factors influencing the number of females are different from those influencing the share of females in formal economic activity. Combining gender-targeted financial inclusion policies with policies that lower constraints on formal sector employment could boost India’s output by 6.8 percent.

Full list of publications on gender


A Global Imperative

by Christine Lagarde
March 8, 2019
March 8 marks International Women’s Day, which provides a chance to reflect on the struggle for greater gender equality.

Do the Math: Include Women in Government Budgets

by Christine Lagarde
March 6, 2019
Every day, women around the world experience less opportunity than men in education and employment, and less political representation.

Doing It All—Women Boost the Bottom Line for Home, Firm, and Country

by Christine Lagarde
March 7, 2016
International Women’s Day—March 8—is one of my favorite days. It is a time to celebrate the impressive progress women at all levels of the career ladder have made in recent decades.

Tackling Inequality in sub-Saharan Africa Could Yield Mileage on Growth

by Antoinette Sayeh
November 16, 2015
Rising inequality is both a moral and economic issue that has implications for the general health of the global economy, and impacts prosperity and growth.

Shrinking Populations, Rising Fiscal Challenges

By Benedict Clements, Kamil Dybczak, and Mauricio Soto
October 27, 2015
Populations are getting older around the world—that’s no surprise in light of declining fertility and improvements in health care. But in many countries, something more dramatic is going on—the population is actually shrinking.

Empowering Women, Tackling Income Inequality

By Sonali Jain-Chandra, Kalpana Kochhar, and Monique Newiak
October 22, 2015
Despite progress, wide gaps between women and men’s economic empowerment and opportunity remain, which policymakers need to tackle urgently.

Fair Play—Equal Laws for Equal Working Opportunity for Women

By Christine Lagarde
February 23, 2015
Leveling the legal playing field for women holds real promise for the world—in both human and economic terms.


Boosting Women-Owned Businesses Key to Growth

February 23, 2015
Melanne Verveer , served as Ambassador-at-Large for global women’s issues under President Obama. She says more women in small and medium sized enterprises is a catalyst for growth.

Women in the Workforce: Breaking The Barriers

December 31, 2014
The IMF says the global economy would benefit by Boosting Women’s Participation in the Labor Force, and hosted a seminar on the topic last fall during the Fund’s annual meetings. Sarah Iqbal participated in that forum and talks in this podcast about the hurdles women face when starting a business.

Women's Tales from Wall Street

June 14, 2013
Despite outnumbering men as college graduates within OECD countries, women are still underrepresented at the very top managerial levels, particularly in finance & business. A group of women veterans of Wall street describe how they got to Wall Street, what they found there, and offer advice to young women who want to get there.



Women, Work, and European Economic Growth

March 7, 2016
Europe faces serious challenges to increasing future output growth. Improving women’s participation in the overall labor market and their representation in senior corporate positions is one important strategy European countries could pursue to help mitigate the projected slowdown in growth

Gender and Income Inequality

October 22, 2015
More men work than women in most countries, and they get paid more for similar work.
In many countries, girls and women have less access to education, health and finance than boys and men. Greater gender equality would benefit the economy through higher growth and lower income inequality.


Statement to the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment

September 19, 2017
By Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, in New York

Together, Korea’s Women and Economy Can Soar

September 5, 2017
By Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, Keynote Speech to Korean Network of Women in Finance

Women’s Empowerment: An Economic Game Changer

September 14, 2016
By Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, in Los Angeles

The Business Case for Women’s Empowerment

November 18, 2016
By Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, at the APEC CEO Summit, Peru

Speech: Catalyst for Change: Empowering Women and Tackling Income Inequality

October 22, 2015
By Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, at Oxfam America, Washington D.C.

The Economic Power of Women’s Empowerment

September 12, 2014
By Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, in Tokyo, Japan

Daring the Difference: The 3 L's of Women’s Empowerment

May 19, 2014
By Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, at the National Democratic Institute, Washington, D.C.


Gender Equality: From Theory to Practice - A Peer Learning Experience
November 2-4, 2017

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), UN Women and Uogonzi Institute convened a peer learning event in Rwanda, a country that has emerged as a leader in advancing gender equality and is ranked among the top performing countries with regard to women's economic and political representation globally. With gender equality mainstreamed politically, institutionally, legally and into the budgetary process, hosting the event in Rwanda provides the opportunity for other low-income countries to get exposure to best practices, inspiration for own programs, and build connections for future collaboration.

This workshop aims at (i) spreading best-practices in promoting gender equality beyond the dissemination of theoretical approaches; (ii) being a forum for policy makers, gender advocates and civil society to exchange information on and approaches to successful initiatives designed to close gender gaps; (iii) building a network for peer-learning within sub-Saharan Africa and therefore creating the foundation for collaboration going forward.

Fiscal Policies and Gender Equality
November 7, 2016

the conference will offer panel discussions with academics and public officials working on relevant topics, as well as a keynote speech by Prof. Diane Elson, and the presentation of results from an IMF/UK DFID project on gender budgeting.

ANNUAL MEETINGS SEMINAR: Making Macroeconomics Work for Women
October 5, 2016

Achieving comprehensive economic development and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require a decisive challenge to existing barriers to women’s economic equality. With that in mind, the UN Secretary General recently established a High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment to address the most persistent gender gaps that “constrain women’s rights and hinder economic growth and productivity.” The heads of both the IMF and the World Bank are members, along with prominent voices from civil society, academia, and business. Using recommendations from the High Level Panel and recent IMF research as a background, this session will explore how macroeconomic policy should be used as a tool to advance women’s economic empowerment and equality. It will look at what political leaders and international institutions such as the IMF should do differently to achieve the SDGs (and especially SDG No. 5 on gender equality), looking at the four focus areas of the UN High Level Panel: (i) eliminating legal barriers to female economic empowerment, (ii) addressing the care economy, (iii) reducing gender pay gaps, and (iv) expanding opportunities for women who work informally.

Getting Down to Business: Women, Work, and the Global Economy
April 13, 2016

Women comprise a little more than half the world’s population, yet significant gender gaps in labor markets constrain their contribution to measured economy activity and growth. Earlier IMF research pointed to the importance of increasing female participation as part of the economic recipe to boost growth prospects in a wide range of countries, including many advanced economies. Most recent research by the IMF suggests that more women in senior corporate positions may also improve firms’ financial performance. Despite significant progress in recent decades, progress toward gender equality is hampered by gaps in participation in the labor force, earnings, and the limited number of women in senior positions. This panel of experts will examine the role that women’s role in the labor market plays in overall growth and stability. But the debate doesn’t end in the corporate sector. New research also shows that public policy may have just as much a role to play as personal choice in women’s decision to work. How does tax policy play an unintended role in keeping women out of the labor force?