India’s national income will climb by 27% if women are allowed participation at par with men in the workforce, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on Monday. “Empowering women can be an economic game changer for any country,” she said. “For instance, if women were to participate in the labour force to the same extent as men, national income could increase by 5% in the US, 9% in Japan and 27% in India.”

Speaking on “Women’s Empowerment: An Economic Game Changer” in Los Angeles, she said providing women with better economic opportunities and equal pay will bolster economic growth and help every party make gains. “If you discourage half the population from fully participating in the labour market, you are essentially behaving like an airline pilot who shuts down half his engines in mid-flight. Sure, your plane will likely continue to fly, but it would be such a crazy thing to do,” Lagarde said.

The IMF chief further emphasised on the key role governments can play by implementing initiatives that will ensure that women get a fair chance in the labour market. “We need to increase women’s access to finance and remove legal barriers that still exist in most countries. We also need to push for smarter tax policies...and think of tax reforms to help low-income families, which are disproportionately headed by women,” Lagarde said.

While only half the number of working-age women were employed worldwide, they continue to face a triple disadvantage and are less likely to have a paid job than men. “If you add up all things that can be done in each country, you get a powerful global impact, a global economic game changer,” Lagarde said, adding that a number of powerful countries, including the G20 bloc that makes up 85% of the global GDP, had agreed to improve gender equality in the labour force by 25% by 2025.