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Refugee women could boost global GDP by $1.4 trillion if employment and pay gaps were closed

Refugee women could boost global GDP by $1.4 trillion if employment and pay gaps were closed
[Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images]

More than 70 million people have been displaced the world over, nearly 26 million of whom are refugees. Many of those refugees, women in particular, struggle to find employment—let alone fair wages—in their host countries.

A new report by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) found that if refugee women were gainfully employed and paid like workers in the host population, they could earn more than $5 billion across the countries analyzed—Turkey, Uganda, Lebanon, Jordan, Germany, and the United States. If employment and pay gaps were closed across the 30 countries with the highest number of refugees, the report estimates that refugee women could add up to $1.4 trillion to the global GDP.

That number is even higher when you expand it to include male refugees. Refugee workers could boost global GDP by $53 billion across the six countries highlighted by the report—which account for 40% of the world’s total refugee population—and up to $2.5 trillion across the top 30 host countries.

But refugee women have to contend with gender-based discrimination in addition to the barriers already faced by refugees of all stripes. When they are employed, it’s more likely to be in pink-collar fields or informal work with little oversight. In countries like Germany and Lebanon, just 6% of refugee women are employed.

Though the U.S. sees the highest rate of employment among refugee women at about 40%, the pay gap persists: Refugee women are paid 29 cents less for every dollar earned by men in the host population. Of the six countries analyzed by the report, the U.S. has the least number of refugees, with just over 287,000—but closing the wage and employment gaps in countries like Turkey, where there are nearly 3.5 million refugees, would make for significant gains.

“Our analysis shows the extraordinary scale of economic rewards, for both refugee women and the economies they live in, if they were able to access local jobs at nondiscriminatory pay rates,” IRC president David Miliband said in a statement. “That’s why the IRC will continue to focus on employment programs, from Uganda to Lebanon, that remove gender barriers for refugees accessing jobs.”

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