London — Gender inequality in the workplace could cost $160 trillion in lost earnings globally, a World Bank study showed on Wednesday, as pressure to address the pay gap grows.
That represents the difference between the combined lifetime income of everyone of working age in the world today - known as human capital wealth - and what it would be if women earned as much as men.
Investing in women and girls would help to increase the wealth of both high- and low-income states, said the report's author Quentin Wodon, lead economist with the World Bank Group.
"Everybody would benefit from gender equality," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The $160 trillion figure represents around two percent of global gross domestic product and amounts to an average disparity of $23,620 per person globally.
It was calculated based on the earning potential of the current labour force in 141 countries.
Women account for only 38 percent of the global human capital wealth and face barriers in the work force in practically every country, according to the World Bank.
Women are less likely than men to join the paid labour force and when they do they are more likely to work part-time, in the informal sector, or in occupations that have lower pay, the World Bank said.
Employers around the globe have come under scrutiny in recent months over the differences in pay for male and female staff.
Some states like Norway have been pioneering gender quotas, requiring nearly 500 firms to raise the proportion of women on their boards to 40 percent.
The issue has also come under the spotlight in Britain, where a law introduced last year requires companies and charities with more than 250 workers to report their gender pay gap each year.