Hillary Clinton, in a speech at Georgetown University on Thursday, said that worldwide, women’s labor is often invisible because they work in the “informal economy.”
“There must be some economics students here, and I hope you will think about this issue,” Clinton said. “How do you evaluate work in the so-called informal economy?”
The unpaid work that many women do to raise their own families and keep their households running isn’t counted in the “formal economy,” Clinton said—the economy of offices, factories, and GDP growth, the economy that is measured and quantified by policymakers.
If women stopped doing that invisible work, she said, the formal economy would grind to a halt.
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The United States’ GDP, a key metric that measures economic growth, would have been 26 percent higher in 2010 if the unpaid domestic work that both men and women do were factored into the number, according to one estimate.
Clinton said that economists should find ways to measure and value the informal economy of unpaid domestic work, but most of her speech focused on the importance of moving more women into the formal economy.
Clinton said there is a “compelling moral case” to make for women’s economic equality, but also a “pragmatic economic case.”
In India, for instance, where women spend an average of six hours a day doing unpaid labor, GDP could grow by $1.7 trillion if women participated in the formal labor workforce at the same level as men.
Closing the labor force participation gap between men and women would increase global GDP by 12 percent by 2030, Clinton said. But closing that gap depends on family-friendly policies like paid family leave, paid sick days, and flexible and predictable scheduling.
It also depends on supporting women business owners, who face a $285 billion “financing gap” due to lack of access to credit, Clinton said.
In the United States, women make up approximately two-thirds of low-wage workers and disproportionately lack the kinds of family-friendly job protections for which Clinton advocated.