For a number of reasons, I’ve been thinking about Sri Lanka’s unusually low female participation in the labor force. As is common among policy people, I was emphasizing the benefits for households from having multiple incomes and to various sectors from having less constraints on labor inputs. Here, Janet Yellen talks about the macro-economic benefits directly:
The sweeping movement of women from the home to the workplace during the mid-20th century, she said, was a “major factor in America’s prosperity.” But that progress has stalled in recent decades, leaving women less likely than men to hold paying jobs. Bringing more women into the work force with policies like expanding the availability of paid leave, affordable childcare and flexible work schedules, she said, could help to lift the American economy from a long stretch of slow growth.
“Evidence suggests that many women remain unable to achieve their goals,” Ms. Yellen said in a speech at Brown University. “If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy at a time when the aging of the population and weak productivity growth are already weighing on economic growth.”
Ms. Yellen cited one recent estimate that raising women’s participation to the same level as men’s could increase the nation’s annual economic output by 5 percent.
The full speech is available here.