Increasing the female employment rate across the OECD to match that of Sweden could boost GDP by US$6 trillion - PwC


  • The top three countries in PwC’s Women in Work 2020 Index are Iceland, Sweden and Slovenia
  • Closing the gender pay gap across the OECD could boost GDP by US$2 trillion
  • On average across the G7, women account for only 30% of the tech workforce, highlighting the need for businesses to improve opportunities for women in the sector by investing in upskilling and other training programmes

London, 5 March 2020 – If the female employment rate across the OECD matched that of Sweden, OECD GDP could be boosted by over US$6 trillion, according to PwC’s latest Women in Work Index, which analyses female economic empowerment across 33 OECD countries.

Between 2017 and 2018, the OECD continued to achieve incremental gains to female economic empowerment. Iceland and Sweden retained the top two positions for the fifth year in a row, with Slovenia in third place. Czechia experienced the biggest improvement in its ranking of all OECD countries, rising four places from 23rd to 19th, owing to small but positive improvements across all the indicators in the Index. The US saw a modest increase in its ranking from 22nd in 2017 to 20th position in 2018.

Although the UK performed above the OECD average and is second only to Canada when compared to other G7 economies, its position has barely budged since 2000 when it stood at 17th position, despite improving its performance across all five indicators.

Estonia and Ireland recorded the biggest decline in their ranking on the Index this year, both falling by four positions mainly due to a decrease in the female full-time employment rate in Estonia and a widening of the gender pay gap in Ireland.

Closing the gender pay gap

The PwC report also finds that closing the gender pay gap could boost female earnings across the OECD by over US$2 trillion, an increase of 21%.

Jing Teow, economist at PwC UK, says:

“Although progress has been made across the OECD, the rate of improvement is still slow, despite the prospect of huge economic gains from increasing female participation in the workforce. In order to realise these gains, businesses and governments need to work together to help get more women into work and ensure that there is a fair and equal pay structure. It’s also crucial that women get the right opportunities to upskill in the face of increasing automation as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Women in technology

On average across the G7, women account for only 30% of the tech workforce, and even fewer women occupy the top echelons of tech companies. According to PwC’s Women in Technology Index, which is included in this year’s study, Canada is the best performing country within the G7 in terms of gender representation and equality in the tech sector, with France in second and the US in third place.

The UK is fifth out of the G7 in the Women in Technology Index. Its poor performance is driven by its worse than average performance on all indicators except the share of women on boards in the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector.

Impact of technology on female employment

The PwC study also finds that AI and new technologies such as robotics, drones and driverless vehicles could displace jobs for women, but can also create new ones. There could be a small gain to female workers in the OECD, but the distribution of gains and losses can vary markedly across countries and industry sectors. The health and social care sector, the largest employer of women in the OECD, is expected to experience a net increase in female employment as a result of technology. However, the wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing sectors in the OECD are expected to experience a net decrease in female employment as a result of technology.

As technology continues to change the world of work, a recent PwC global survey found that more than half of workers globally believe that automation will either significantly change or make their job obsolete within the next decade.

Colm Kelly, Global Leader, Tax and Legal Services, Global Leader, Purpose, PwC, adds:

“Policymakers and businesses have a key role to play in helping people, including women, adapt to technological change throughout their working lives. This includes offering more training in digital skills and STEM subjects, supporting retraining into other jobs in sectors where the “human touch” is crucial, and providing opportunities to learn softer skills, such as creativity, problem solving and flexibility. With the right interventions, everyone including women can benefit from the gains in productivity from technology and automation.”

Women in Work Index ranking - Top 10 (covers 33 OECD countries)


Women in Technology Index ranking
(covers G7 countries only)

1. Iceland


1. Canada

2. Sweden


2. France

3. Slovenia


3. United States

4. New Zealand


4. Germany

5. Luxembourg


5. United Kingdom

6. Norway


6. Italy

7. Denmark


7. Japan

8. Poland



9. Finland



10. Belgium




Notes to editors:

  1. The five indicators that make up the Women in Work Index are: the gender pay gap, female labour force participation, the gap between male and female labour force participation, female unemployment and female full-time employment rate
  2. The G7 countries include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.
  3. For more information on how automation will impact jobs please visit:
  4. For more information about PwC’s global programme, New world. New skills., aimed at helping millions of people around the world improve their understanding, skills and knowledge for the digital world, please visit:


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