Accelerating economic equity will be a major theme at the World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit, on 2-3 May 2023.
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Growth Summit 2023: How can we accelerate economic equity?

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Accelerating economic equity will be a major theme at the World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit, on 2-3 May 2023. Image: Unsplash/Ryoji Iwata

Julie Masiga
Communications Lead, Centre for Health and Healthcare, World Economic Forum
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  • Challenges in the global economy are limiting people's economic opportunities.
  • Many also face direct discrimination and a lack of inclusivity in the jobs market.
  • The green transition and emerging technologies present an opportunity to do better.
  • Leaders must overcome a severe wealth divide and earnings gaps to create equity.
  • Accelerating economic equity will be a major theme at the World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit on 2-3 May 2023.

Our fragile planet now has more than 8 billion people to sustain. It’s a big ask at a time when the global economy is being reshaped by rapidly advancing technology, an essential energy transition, high inflation, war and a restructuring of value chains.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, low- and lower-middle-income countries are hit harder by these pressures than high-income countries. Poorer nations continue to struggle with long-term unemployment after the pandemic and workers with only basic education and women face difficulties in finding work.

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Growth Summit 2023: Here's what to expect

These challenges around economic equity are set against the backdrop of an alarming wealth gap that has emerged between the world’s richest and poorest people – at a time when prospects for advanced and emerging economies are also diverging. This means a growing proportion of the global population is at risk of not being able to afford basic goods and services.

The World Inequality Report, 2022 finds that the poorest 50% of the world’s population owns just 2% of global wealth. The top 10% control more than 76%. Income patterns show a similar disparity at 8.5% and 52%, respectively.

A chart showing global income and wealth inequality in 2021. economic equity
The world’s poorest 50% own just 2% of all wealth and earn 8.5% of global income. Image: World Inequality Lab

Industrial and economic advancement in a globalized economy has lifted billions of people out of extreme poverty. In 1990, almost 2 billion lived in poverty, so the world has come a long way. But projections from the World Bank suggest that, by 2030, 570 million people will still be living in extreme poverty.

A chart showing the number of people in extreme poverty around the world from 1990 to 2030. economic equity
Extreme poverty has fallen but hundreds of millions still face economic hardships. Image: Our World in Data/World Bank

Accelerating economic equity was one of the core themes at the World Economic Forum’s Growth Summit, which took place at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, from 2-3 May 2023.

To achieve the goal of prosperity and opportunity for all it will be critical to place people at the heart of more resilient, equitable and sustainable growth. For growth to be considered truly equitable, leaders must focus on metrics that go far beyond income. A green energy transition that benefits all will be crucial, as will advancing gender equality, health equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as racial and social justice.

Sessions on accelerating economic equity at the Growth Summit

Leading voices came together at the summit to share insights and map out pathways towards more equitable economies, both local and global. Key sessions included:

Growth Hotspots: The New Geography of Investment and Growth

Even as average global growth is lower than in the past, new opportunities are emerging for geographies leading in food, tourism, green tech, energy, digital services and more. This panel looked at the countries and regions that will drive global growth and attract investment in the next decade. The panellists included Botswana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Mmusi Kgafela, Bain & Company’s Managing Director, Karen Harris, and the President of Türkiye’s Investment Office Burak Dağlıoğlu.

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Ensuring resilient, equitable growth depends on women enjoying greater economic participation and moving into positions of leadership in the economy, politics and civil society. What can be done to ensure gender parity and to advance more women to the highest levels of leadership? LinkedIn’s Suzanne Duke, Chief Economist Paul Donovan, Maha Al Ali, Secretary-General of Jordan’s National Commission for Women, and iamtheCODE founder Lady Mariéme Jamme convened to highlight the answers.

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Over the past decade, global inequality has gotten worse. It is widely viewed as one of the key drivers of national polarization and international disruption in recent years. It’s widening the gap between races and genders, fuelling the extraction and monetization of our natural resources, and driving conflict and climate change. On this panel, thought leaders examined the projections for inequality within and between countries and discussed how it should be tackled. On the panel were Zubaida Bai, President and Chief Executive Office of the Grameen Foundation, Younes Sekkouri, Morocco’s Minister of Economic Inclusion, Small Business, Employment and Skills, Ricardo Hausmann, Founder and Director of the Growth Lab at Harvard University, and Owen Tudor, Deputy General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

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Generative AI has the potential to disrupt nearly every industry, promising both competitive advantage and creative destruction. It's likely to have an outsized impact on organizations and industries. In light of this, what strategies can leaders employ to leverage growth opportunities and manage challenges? Nicole Sahin, CEO of Globalization Partners, Mihir Shukla, CEO of Automation Anywhere, Inc., Michael Schwarz, Chief Economist at Microsoft and Gevorg Mantashyan, First Deputy Minister of Armenia’s High-Tech Industry discussed.

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Openness to diverse ideas is at the heart of creativity and innovation. The International Telecommunication Union's Tomas Lamanauskas, European Research Council's Maria Leptin, Generation Unlimited's Kevin Frey, and EY's Amy Brachio came together to discuss how governments and businesses shape innovation ecosystems. They shared pathways to attracting diverse talent and spoke about the importance of embracing diversity in positions of leadership and power.

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This session was moderated by Tarek Ali Ahmad, Head of Research and Studies at Arab News. He was joined by Marketing and Communications Strategist Sonya Shorey, Abu Dhabi’s Undersecretary for Economic Development Rashed Al Blooshi, Maurizio Tamagnini, the CEO of FSI SGR S.p.A., Mexico City’s Economic Development Secretary Fadlala Akabani Hneide, and Erika Kraemer Mbula, Professor of Economics at the University of Johannesburg. Starting on the premise that cities are responsible for 80% of global growth the panel debated what national and municipal leaders can do to position their cities for growth, affordability, accessible infrastructure and development.

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In the next 30 years, the number of people over the age of 80 will triple to more than 420 million. A panel of experts discussed the financial implications of this extraordinary accomplishment in health outcomes, and outlined what policies are needed to design a retirement system that ensures financial resilience and longer, healthy lives. The panellists were Linda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, Graham Pearce, Global Defined Benefit Segment Leader at Mercer, Gog Soon Joo, Chief Skills Officer at SkillsFuture, and Christian Keller, Head of Economic Research at Barclays.

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A selection of resources on accelerating economic equity from the World Economic Forum

These articles and reports from the World Economic Forum provide useful and important information for those looking to better understand and implement plans to accelerate economic equity.

The World Economic Forum's Centre for Health and Healthcare will launch this new initiative at the Growth Summit 2023. With approximately 1.3 billion adults in formal employment worldwide spending extensive time at work, employers can have a powerful role in improving the health of their workers to benefit society, and also grow businesses. This can be achieved by key interventions at scale towards shared objectives. The purpose of this initiative is to provide a global unified platform to drive greater awareness of the opportunity and accelerate the adoption and scale-up of a range of best practices.

The outbreak of the war in Ukraine prompted a mass migration of eight million refugees. They join millions of others around the world who are fleeing war, persecution and poverty, and seeking work to build a better life. The World Economic Forum's Refugee Employment Initiative brings together partners in the public and private sectors to enhance job opportunities for refugees.

Gender parity is not recovering, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022. It will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap. As crises are compounding, women's workforce outcomes are suffering and the risk of global gender parity backsliding further intensifies.

The Forum has supported 13 countries to convene Gender Parity Accelerators which are national public-private collaboration platforms that support countries in closing economic gender gaps. They work with more than 80 public sector and 1,150 private sector partners to increase female labour force participation, advance pay equity and accelerate gender parity in jobs of the future.

The DEI Lighthouse Programme is designed to pragmatically identify proven, effective DEI initiatives from companies across industries and geographies and to share key lessons learned with business and public sector leaders around the world.

The Forum is now looking for its next cohort of DEI Lighthouses. To be considered for the 2023-4 programme, please follow this link for more information about the submissions procedure. Applications must be entered by 1 June 2023.

The world’s leading CDIOs from more than 135 companies, across 22 different industries, spanning North America, Europe, MENA and Asia come together in monthly virtual meetings. The community drives impact through:

  • Peer-level exchange on emerging trends, risks and opportunities to build inclusive corporate cultures
  • Amplifying the most cutting-edge ideas to redesign business and people processes for more equity
  • Developing a vision, strategies and tools to proactively embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into the future of our economies and societies to shape long-term inclusive change

DEI practice and programming have been increasingly mainstreamed into the corporate space for the last 60 years. In the last decade, the public and shareholders have increasingly called for greater transparency on actions and outcomes regarding DEI. However, the lack of coherent standards around data collection and reporting makes it challenging for businesses to assess gaps and track progress, especially on issues related to race and ethnicity.

The Global Racial & Ethnic Equity Framework and accompanying briefing paper provide context on current challenges and opportunities, and identify pathways by which corporations can prioritize racial and ethnic equity through a whole-of-business approach.

The World Economic Forum will host a dialogue series between May and November of this year, which will bring together members of the Partnering for Racial Justice in Business Initiative with senior leaders from the public sector, academia and civil society. Participants will share best practice to boost racial and ethnic equity implementation efforts and solutions. The series is designed to achieve transformational change across the 10 Guiding Principles of the World Economic Forum’s Global Racial and Ethnic Equity Framework.

Accelerating economic equity will only be possible if we take a broad view, looking beyond the workplace to resolve issues that limit opportunity. At Davos 2023, a number of sessions focused on creating a more equitable world for women, people of colour, people with disabilities and other marginalized groups.

The cost-of-living crisis was identified as the most severe global risk over the next two years. The world’s poorest people and low-income countries will be hardest hit. As the report states: “Economic impacts have been cushioned by countries that can afford it, but many lower-income countries are facing multiple crises: debt, climate change and food security.” Without an acceleration of economic equity, these impacts will continue to afflict those with limited economic opportunity long after rich nations have recovered.

The World Economic Forum is committed to helping people and organizations follow through on commitments to expand opportunity for the traditionally excluded, whether economically, racially, culturally, or technologically.

COP27 highlighted that the people who will bear the brunt of the climate crisis are also the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized. According to the World Bank’s Women Business and the Law 2022 report, nearly 2.4 billion women globally lack the same economic rights as men. The gap between men's and women’s expected lifetime earnings globally is $172 trillion – nearly two times the world’s annual GDP.

What to read: Articles about accelerating economic equity on Agenda

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Sessions on accelerating economic equity at the Growth SummitA selection of resources on accelerating economic equity from the World Economic ForumVideos to watch on accelerating economic equity

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