A new op-ed calls GDP “sexist,” and a “bully in the schoolyard,” claiming it tells women: “You are worthless”
“GDP is sexist. Plain and simple.”
That’s the conclusion made by John Havens, executive director of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous Intelligence Systems, in a new op-ed for Quartz published on Tuesday.
Havens argues that this is because gross domestic product — the most authoritative metric of the strength of a nation’s economy, and its total value — fails to account for crucial domestic and caregiving activities, as well as commerce conducted in the informal economy, like bartering for goods at a yard sale or selling cookies or lemonade in the neighborhood.
And because these activities are disproportionately handled by women, the measuring stick we use to determine an economy’s health is inherently biased against women, he says. In essence: “The GDP is sexist because it adopts a framework of value creation and productivity that is traditionally anchored on individualistic, male-dominated activities. It relegates all activities that have to do with care, nurturing, and community support—[which are] traditionally performed by women — to the margins of economic value creation,” Lorenzo Fioramonti, a professor of political economy at the University of Pretoria and author of “The World After GDP,” is quoted as telling Havens.
But those contributions are worth a lot: Research from Riane Eisler, president of the Center for Partnership Studies and author of “The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics,” shows, that if caregiving work were included in the GDP, it would constitute between 30% and 50% of the GDP.
Yale professor of development economics Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak tells Moneyish that the premise of Havens’ argument is, in essence, accurate. However, it’s folly, he says, to assume that GDP is the correct metric to assess women’s financial contributions to their national economies.
“GDP is imperfect for many different reasons… We have to clearly label the assumptions we’re making,” Mobarak says. “The basic point that women’s work is systematically undervalued if we were to focus on GDP as a measure is accurate,” but most economists would refrain from using GDP as a measure for the value women create.
However, Jean Ergas, a professor of international economics at the New York University School of Professional Studies and chief economist at Tigress Financial Partners, asserts that “there is a substantial amount of truth in this view. The role of women as providing the key infrastructure for societal and economic development has been underestimate or neglected in traditional economics.”
That said, Ergas concludes that the changing nature of the global workforce — which includes the luxury of working from home thanks to technology and the flexibility of the so-called “gig economy” — will increasingly make it easier for women to balance both domestic caregiving and handling work that generates economic value in the traditional sense.
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