Prioritizing investment in female education could help boost the GDP of developing countries by an average of 10 percent over the next decade, research has found.
According to Plan International and Citi Global Insights, every dollar spent on improving girls’ rights and ensuring 100% of girls complete their secondary education by 2023 would generate economic returns amounting to billions of dollars in extra GDP.
This finding is based on analysis from eight developing and emerging-market countries: India, Egypt, Laos, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ghana, Mali, and Uganda.
While there have been numerous studies showing the economic benefits of greater equality for women in the workforce, the role of adolescent girls in achieving economic growth and prosperity isn’t being highlighted enough. This is partly due to a lack of information stemming from poor data collection. Additionally, the data that is collected is often viewed from a highly sector-specific lens, such as the effects of spending more on just healthcare, or just education.
However, the Plan International and Citi Global Insights report emphasized that to achieve higher graduation rates among young women and to improve their prospects down the line, a more holistic approach must be taken. Strategies must be put in place to address the unique challenges faced by young women in developing countries. This means taking a closer look at issues such as violence, forced marriage, restrictive laws, and many other factors.
The report noted that these issues are all interconnected and must not be tackled separately. Given the task at hand, governments, the private sector, NGOs, and charity organizations must work together and do their part to address these barriers which prevent young women from achieving economic independence.
Researchers warned that while it is still possible for stakeholders to achieve the desired results while operating in silos, this would come at a higher cost, with lower impact, and over a longer timeframe.
The report also mentioned that low-income countries like Mali and Uganda might take longer to reap the economic benefits of having more women in the workforce given the low educational attainment for girls in these countries. On the bright side, these countries have the most to gain in the medium to long term as the number of educated and skilled working women increases over time. Sustained interventions and investments are therefore necessary to keep girls and economies on an upward trajectory.
Around 130 million girls worldwide are currently out of school, with 85 percent of girls in low-income countries unable to complete their secondary education, according to UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency. UNESCO also believes that more than 11 million girls might not return to school after the COVID-19 pandemic as families in developing countries may prioritize investing in their sons over daughters.