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Iraqi Women’s Contribution to the Iraqi Economy: An impressionistic view. By Amer K. Hirmis (PhD) *


There is a large, and growing, literature dealing with the power of gender parity, rightly concluding that GDP would increase with increasing participation rate of women in the labour market at various skills and seniority levels. Iraq is not different. This body of literature had simultaneously been pioneered by the academia, international organisations and established consulting firms. This note attempts to quantify the potential contribution of Iraqi women to the economy, when/if women’s participation rate in the labour force increases from 13.9 percent in 2014 (year under investigation) to 40 percent. Although women comprise 50 percent of population in working age, at 13.9 percent participation rate Iraqi working women contribute only 8.12 percent to non-oil GDP. This equated to US$ 8.52 billion. A counterfactual scenario suggests that, on a ceteris paribus basis, if participation rate is raised to 40 percent, women’s contribution to GDP would have been US$ 24.72 billion, or 23.58 percent of non-oil GDP; nearly three times higher in real terms. Such an increase, however, would require an increase in the absorptive capacity of the economy, i.e. an increase in investment in social and physical infrastructure as well as in the productive and service sectors, the increase in GDP is likely to be much higher over the medium- to long-term. For this to happen, economic and social policies would need to be put in place, effecting change in attitudes towards the role of women in Iraqi society and the economy. This paper makes a number of policy suggestions which could be refined to deliver tangible results in promoting women’s increased participation in the Iraqi labour market and the economy. It also recommends that the Iraqi Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) should refine the income approach to GDP, incorporating separately women’s contribution as an important indicator of human development, and the degree to which Iraq attains economic development, as distinct from economic growth. This paper also recommends that the UNDP should incorporate such a measure – contribution of women to national GDP – in the Human Development Index (HDI), the Gender Inequality Index (GII) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Other international organisations, with concern about gender inequality, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD and Economic Forum, should follow suit.

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Iraqi Women’s contribution to GDP V2 Feb. 2019

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