IMF on gender and income inequality: from research to implementation
Gender inequality and its impact on economic growth have risen up the IMF agenda under current managing director Christine Lagarde’s leadership.
In October 2015, the IMF published the staff discussion note (SDN) Catalyst for change: Empowering women and tackling income inequality, following a series of earlier gender-focused SDNs. The series has focused on the ways in which gender inequality has a negative impact on female labour force participation rates, which in turn has a negative effect on macroeconomic growth and stability.
Previous SDNs have focused on gender inequalities in unpaid care; education: access to productive inputs: tax incentives and legal restrictions to women’s work. The latter links gender inequality to another issue on which the IMF has published research – income inequality.
In recent years, extreme economic inequality has become a growing concern to a wide range of actors who have highlighted its negative effects on growth, poverty reduction, and social cohesion. The concentration of wealth is rising.
In 2010 the combined wealth of the world’s poorest half was equal to the wealth of the 388 richest individuals; in 2016 it was equal to the wealth of only 62 individuals. The gender dimensions of this inequality are undeniable – just nine of these 62 are women, whilst women make up the majority of those on low wages and in the most precarious forms of work.
The IMF has voiced concerns, calling “widening income inequality… the defining challenge of our time” and Lagarde stated in June 2015 that addressing it is “not just morally and politically correct, but … good economics”.