Economic benefits of gender equality and women empowerment in the Western Balkans six

“Economic Benefits of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in the Western Balkans six” is a study by the Regional Cooperation Council Secretariat (RCC). The Council serves regional cooperation and Euro-Atlantic integration of South East Europe, in order to spark development in the region to the benefit of its people.

The RCC commissioned Cambridge Econometrics and Economix to assess gender equality and women empowerment in the West Balkans six (WB6) and to provide tailored policy recommendations to each of the six economies.

The purpose of this study is to shed light on the labour market situation of women, assess the economic benefits of women empowerment in the WB6 economies and recommendations for the way forward.

Using gender disaggregated data, a comprehensive analysis of the current situation of gender equality and women empowerment in the WB6 was performed. The study also contains stocktaking and assessment of key policy areas and measures to reduce gender inequality in WB6 and promote economic empowerment of women.

Key findings:

  1. Despite recent progress in a number of key indicators regarding gender equality in the WB6 economies, gender gaps remain large, in particular in participation and employment rates, and pay. Female share in middle-to-senior management and entrepreneurial positions are also still low. There is also clear evidence of gender segregation in the labour market by sector and by occupation.
  2.  GDP per capita in the WB6 economies could rise between 0.7%-1.5% by 2035 if they undertook additional actions compared to the current situation to reduce the gender gap in participation rates.
  3. The current progress in different aspects of gender equality is under threat from external factors such as automation and the Covid-19 pandemic. Before 2020, a catching-up process in labour market indicators had been underway, with gender gaps narrowing in most indicators. By the beginning of 2020, female employment rates fell more than male employment rates.
  4. Female empowerment in the WB6 economies has a score of 52.4 points out of 100 in an index constructed for this study (below the EU average score of 80). Higher women empowerment scores go along with higher female educational attainment, and lower female inactivity due to caring responsibilities.
  5. Economic empowerment of women in the WB6 region involves increasing women’s labour market participation, reducing their unemployment, closing the gender employment gap and increasing access to better jobs. To achieve these targets there is a need for a comprehensive/wide-ranging and sustained package of measures relating to a variety of policy fields.
Cornelia-Madalina Suta Principal Economist [email protected]