New research: prioritising gender inclusion in economic strategies

New analysis by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) has found that the barriers to paid work encountered by women means that £88.7bn GVA is lost to the economy in England, Scotland and Wales annually – equivalent to the contribution of the entire financial services sector in the UK.

Released ahead of a major new research project being launched by the two organisations today, in partnership with Leeds City Council, the findings indicate that the average regional economy is losing out on £1.68bn per year – in some cases representing nearly 10% of a region’s existing economic output. The data also reveals large regional disparities in the cost incurred by women being excluded from paid work, and a correlation between those areas experiencing high levels of GVA foregone due to work barriers for women and those experiencing the highest levels of child poverty.

Sara Reis, Acting Director at WBG said:

“These findings further underline the hugely significant economic cost of systemic barriers to paid work for women – including caring responsibilities, the cost of childcare and wages undermined by the gender pay gap. What’s more, they don’t capture the social cost – the loss of connection, sense of accomplishment and mental challenge for women excluded from paid work is immensely damaging for both their individual health and the wellbeing of our communities.”

In recognition of these impacts, CLES and WBG’s new research project will see them partnering with Leeds City Council to better understand how gender inclusion can be prioritised in the development and implementation of economic strategies. The mixed-method research study will provide decision makers with insights into the lived experience of women, enabling them to design and tailor interventions to support economic inclusion in their communities.

Sarah Longlands, Chief Executive of CLES, said:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Leeds City Council on this work, to explore what it means to put gender inclusion at the heart of a successful and inclusive local economy.

“Councils across the UK are both recognising the urgency of addressing women’s exclusion from paid work and taking bold and innovative steps to do just that. In Islington, for example, the Council are working with neighbouring councils in Camden, Hackney and Tower Hamlets to implement a programme of work designed to help residents access jobs in the tech sector. To date, more than 60% of the startups supported have been led by women. Meanwhile, Clackmannanshire Council in Scotland, has committed to using an inclusive economy approach to realising its objective of “enabling women and girls to […] achieve their full potential.”

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, added:

“At the heart of this project is a long-term objective to ensure that women and families from every part of Leeds have the best possible opportunity to play an active role in our growing economy.

“The council has a proud track record of driving inclusive growth, tackling gender inequalities and working to remove social, cultural, political and economic barriers that might prevent people from making the most of their potential.

“Yet despite the great progress we’ve made, the analysis carried out by CLES and WBG shows that systemic barriers which stop women from undertaking paid work still cost Leeds approximately £1.5bn per year, or 5.3% of the city’s total GVA.

“Their findings highlight the importance of initiatives like this new research project, which will give us a clearer understanding of the employment challenges that continue to be experienced by many women and should in turn help make our economy work better for everyone.”


  • Full data from CLES and WBG’s analysis, including maps and data relating to child poverty can be found here.
  • Methodology: Analysis was conducted through calculating the lost GVA in £bn to local economies (ITL2 sub-regions), as a result of the higher rate of economic inactivity of women compared to men in each area. This was used to estimate (for each local economy in the UK) the total additional economic output (GVA) that would be added if the same percentage of women were “economically active” as men,£GVAworker
  • For media enquiries, please contact Helen Power, Head of Communications at CLES (07853 266 598 / or Erin Mansell, Head of Communications and Public Affairs at WBG (07799 116 631 /