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Romina Kazandjian, Ms. Lisa L Kolovich, Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, and Ms. Monique Newiak
We show that gender inequality decreases the variety of goods countries produce and export, in particular in low-income and developing countries. We argue that this happens through at least two channels: first, gender gaps in opportunity, such as lower educational enrollment rates for girls than for boys, harm diversification by constraining the potential pool of human capital available in an economy. Second, gender gaps in the labor market impede the development of new ideas by decreasing the efficiency of the labor force. Our empirical estimates support these hypotheses, providing evidence that gender-friendly policies could help countries diversify their economies.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.

1. Gender inequalities in opportunities and outcomes persist in Lesotho and the growth potential from closing the gender gaps is sizable. Gender-based legal restrictions, as well as barriers in access to education, healthcare, financial services, assets, the labor market, and formalsector employment prevent women from fully and equally participating in the economy. This in turn lowers aggregate productivity and hampers the efficient allocation of talent and resources, thereby weighing down on economic growth. Eliminating gender inequality is thus macro-critical — it can boost productivity and help countries fulfill their growth potential, while enhancing economic stability and resilience.2 A 2015 study suggests that closing the gender gap of Lesotho with the ASEAN-5 countries could boost economic growth by 0.5 percentage point, which is comparable to cutting income inequality, and greater than the impact of improving infrastructure. To quantify, we selected a subgroup of ASEAN-5 countries with a strong track record of growth as the benchmark and decomposed the differences in average real GDP per capita growth between Lesotho and these fast-growing countries to determine the role that different factors play in explaining Lesotho’s growth shortfall (Figure 1).3