By Lisa Ryan
On Wednesday, women around the world will go on strike in observance of International Women’s Day as part of “A Day Without a Woman.” While not every woman has the luxury to take a day off from paid work, a new analysis from the Center for American Progress determined what it might cost the American economy if every working woman actually were able to strike tomorrow: around $21 billion in gross domestic product.
The Center for American Progress calculated that women’s labor contributes $7.6 trillion to America’s GDP each year — which is more than the entirety of the country of Japan’s GDP of $5.2 trillion. Moreover, women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, the analysis found, so women’s financial contributions have also become “increasingly important” to their individual families’ well-being.
But CAP notes that the $21 billion figure doesn’t “fully represent” the whole picture of what would happen to the economy if all women took a day off, since women’s paid labor contributions are still undervalued, as they tend to be overrepresented in economic sectors that are low-profit. Those sectors include child care (women make up 94 percent of workers in that field), home health services (84 percent), registered nursing (90 percent), preschool and kindergarten teachers (97 percent), and more.
“Even if women’s paid work was valued more accurately, this still would not include the other ways in which women contribute to the economy. This is because economic measures such as GDP do not include unpaid labor, which is mostly taken on by women,” the analysis noted. As such, women spent 150 percent more time on household chores than men, in addition to spending more than twice the amount men dedicate to caregiving.
“Women have long played a vital role in the economy, but women’s earnings and economic contributions are becoming more and more essential,” analysis co-author Kate Bahn, an economist at CAP, said in a statement. “However, due to occupational segregation and the devaluation of jobs that women disproportionately hold, outdated labor standards, and insufficient work-family policies, women in the United States aren’t able to meet their full economic potential.”
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