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What If Our Ruling Class Has Women’s Workforce Participation And GDP All Wrong?

woman working at home on laptop
Image CreditPexels/Ron Lach

Leading economists are blinded by the GDP numbers game and fail to see the human drama that undergirds all of human society.

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There was a strange irony in The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of India’s low female workforce participation and China’s economic and demographic collapse last weekend. The economist types writing and editing the WSJ are pushing on India the very same communist-inspired economic policies that have precipitated China’s demographic and economic collapse.

A lengthy investigative piece about India in the weekend WSJ print edition, provocatively titled “What’s Holding Back India’s Economic Ambitions?,” criticized the majority Hindu country because of its low female participation. It blamed its antiquated social mores for limiting the potential output of India’s economy.

The message of the article was one that has been repeated often in the last year on NPR, the Associated Press, the BBC, and other corporate media sources. According to global elites who control these publications, there can be only one successful economic trajectory for all countries, and it involves women going to work at rates similar to those of men.  

“Many countries have followed a similar economic trajectory: As they develop, women increasingly enter the workforce, further fueling the country’s upward climb. It happened in China, Japan and South Korea in the latter half of the 20th century….” So the WSJ article begins.

India’s sin is not to have followed this same path, according to Wall Street’s elites.

Happy and Free to Choose Domesticity

The article laments how India’s female labor force participation rate is presently only 24 percent, down from 31 percent in 2001 because of “a deeply conservative culture that emphasizes a woman’s place is at home.” It argues that India is squandering the opportunity to lure Western companies that are looking for “alternatives to China for manufacturing.” If India added only 11 percentage points of women’s workforce participation, the authors argue, its economy would break the $4 trillion barrier, closing in on Germany and Japan! Alas, there has been no net job creation in India over the last decade because Indian women prefer to be homemakers.

What the article did not emphasize is how entrenched traditional social mores are among India’s women themselves. According to India’s National Sample Survey, of the tens of millions of women who are stay-at-home mothers, only 31 percent say they would take a job if it were flexible enough to accommodate their roles as homemakers. And this is despite the fact that the number of Indian women who complete secondary education has dramatically risen in the past two decades to over 80 percent. However much the WSJ writers and editors may want to chalk up the lack of female participation in the workforce to misogyny, they cannot deny that it reflects an entrenched social preference among Indian women themselves to fulfill domestic roles.

This is something the WSJ writers and editors know well. But rather than address this as a historical and cultural fact, they choose to emulate the approach of communists from time immemorial. “Put the women to work!” they say.

There is an eerie echo of Mao Tse Tung in all this. Chairman Mao famously would say, “Women hold up half the sky,” to explain why women needed to work. This is not so different from the calls of globalists to increase women’s participation to grow GDP. During Mao’s rule, 90 percent of Chinese women participated in the workforce. Today, China is still a world beater, with over 71 percent female workforce participation, according to the World Bank. The U.S. and the Euro area lag just behind with 67 percent and 69 percent female workforce participation, respectively.

The biggest oddity of all is that no one asks about the effect of increased female workforce participation on overall fertility.

A Surefire Way to Shrink Your Fertility Rate

A brief WSJ piece about China, titled “China’s Fertility Rate Dropped Sharply, Study Shows,” shows how the country’s population is collapsing faster than anyone predicted. Last year, its fertility rate dropped to 1.09 percent, and there were fewer than 10 million births and more than 10 million deaths. Attempts to rebound the birth rates in the country in recent years have had no effect. Despite reciting this litany of woes, the article does not probe the reasons for this dramatic and unprecedented situation, nor its connections to China’s past economic policies.

A separate article, published in Monday’s WSJ, addressed China’s economic collapse, recognizing that demography is a large contributing factor. The article — “China’s 40-Year Boom Is Over. What Comes Next?” — documented how China’s labor force has been declining since 2019 and is expected to plummet rapidly in the next two decades, but nowhere did it acknowledge the genesis of China’s unsustainable population trajectory.

After achieving near 90 percent women’s employment under Mao, and having been hailed as an economic miracle during three decades of market liberalization since, China now has a plummeting fertility rate that is leading to an economic and demographic collapse. India, on the other hand, has a fertility rate that, although declining steadily, remains stubbornly above replacement level. This, despite the best efforts of the U.S. government, the Indian government, and billionaire philanthropists that have saturated India with sterilization and contraceptive programs.

The economic output of India is averaging over 7 percent GDP growth each year despite low female workforce participation. None of the leading economies in the world, including China, Europe, and North America can boast such growth. Could India’s male-female workforce distribution be a possible path to a better economic model of sustainable economic growth in the long run? We may never know if the globalists manage to impose their economic model on India. 

What we know in hindsight is that women’s increased participation in the economy has had a direct correlation with lower fertility everywhere in the world, without exception. And it is a correlation compounded by the two-income trap, whereby the price of living increases exponentially and forces even women who want to spend more time being mothers into the labor force to merely survive. Sadly, this is a fact that politically correct economists are not willing to openly acknowledge for fear of being labeled misogynists.

Conversely, economists just assume that female workforce participation is something good per se and sustainable in the long run. And that the lack of female participation in the workforce is negative and unsustainable. But there is no reason given as to why this may be the case. In fact, the evidence from China, Japan, South Korea, as well as Europe and America suggests that once countries enter a sub-replacement fertility trend there is no going back.

Less Productivity in the Long Run

What we know is that the world’s economist class, the types that run international agencies, development banks, and programs, and attend cocktail parties in Washington, D.C., and Brussels, want women to work. The reason they reach this conclusion is that anarcho-capitalists, like their communist counterparts, only conceive of human beings as units of production in the economy. It is why the solutions they propose can never be humane or sustainable. The greatest illustration of this is that the only available family-friendly fiscal and economic policies in the United States and other Western countries are ones that encourage women to work. Never are women encouraged to be homemakers.

Just like Mao, today’s leading economists are blinded by the GDP numbers game and fail to see the human drama that undergirds all human society. Because of this, they reach the same exact conclusions as authoritarian regimes. More women’s employment means more economic productivity; therefore it must be encouraged in the case of capitalist systems, or forced in the case of communist societies. Both forms of female work participation, however, lead to low fertility, which means less economic productivity in the long run.

The economist’s solution to the diminishment of the economic pie because of low fertility is more female employment, which is what led to the drop in fertility in the first place — at which point one begins to think this is a Ponzi scheme to deplete the world of its most valuable resource: its people.


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