Enabling Girls to Complete Secondary Education Could Boost GDP By 10%

E Emerging economies that achieve 100% secondary school completion rates for girls by 2030 could see their GDP being boosted by an average of 10%, according to a new report by Citi Global Insights and Plan International.

The report, The Case for Holistic Investment in Girls – Improving Lives, Realising Potential, Benefitting Everyone, reveals that a total investment of just $1.53 per day per girl in emerging economies would have a huge impact on countries’ overall economic potential. 

More than 130 million girls worldwide were out of school before the COVID-19 crisis. According to UNESCO, over 11 million girls may not go back after the crisis. 


Adolescent girls everywhere, but especially in developing economies, encounter barriers in accessing and completing quality education, becoming economically independent, participating in the labour force, and living a healthy life free from violence. 

“COVID-19 recovery plans that prioritise investment in girls’ education and well-being will help communities and economies build back better and stronger,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International. “But importantly, this must be comprehensive investment not just in education itself, but in dismantling all the various barriers to girls’ empowerment, from child and early forced marriage to gender-based violence and early pregnancy. As we can see from this study, holistic investment in all areas of girls’ lives will result in increased GDP, a high return on investment for countries and a more just world.” 

Even greater economic returns would materialise beyond 2030, thanks to the cumulative effects of the benefits, and taking into account the impact educating girls will also have on families and communities

“The special value of the collaboration between Citi and Plan International comes through bringing together the economic and social case, and presenting a solid multi-component investment case,” said Andrew Pitt, Global Head of Research Citi. 

“Eradicating barriers to girls’ education and development may hold the key to achieving many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he added. 


This report brings together the diverse expertise of Citi Global Insights and Plan International and features three key components: 

  • a deep dive into the complex barriers that adolescent girls face, and what interventions are required to overcome them; 
  • an original economic analysis of the potential costs of an intervention package and the economic benefits that could be achieved through this; and 
  • recommendations on how different sectors can come together to effectively tackle the barriers that are holding adolescent girls back.

A major challenge to research over the years has been a lack of high-quality and inclusive data. Citi and Plan International have partnered to address this crucial knowledge gap, creating one of the most holistic data sets yet on the economic and social benefits of investing in adolescent girls and young women.  

The UN has encouraged the development of collaboration between the private sector, the public sector, NGOs and philanthropic institutions in pursuit of the SDGs. This research confirms the benefits of such positive inter-disciplinary collaborations. 

The report concludes that investing in the development of adolescent girls will have positive implications across the global goals beyond SDG 5 – gender equality – and is in fact key to achieving sustainable development overall. The importance of girls’ education and empowerment has been linked to several SDGs including reducing conflict, achieving clean water and sanitation as well as tackling climate change. 

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