|The report found eliminating barriers between men and women in certain occupations increases productivity [AFP]
Gender equality is shrewd economics as well as a human right, the World Bank has said in a report that showed countries with better opportunities for women and girls can boost productivity and development.
The most glaring disparity is the rate at which girls and women die relative to men in developing countries, according to The World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development.
"Blocking women and girls from getting the skills and earnings to succeed in a globalised world is not only wrong, but also economically harmful," said Justin Yifu Lin, World Bank chief economist.
"Sharing the fruits of growth and globalisation equally between men and women is essential to meeting key development goals."
Monday's report cited the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation's estimates that equal access to resources for female farmers could increase agricultural output in poorer countries by up to four per cent.
It also said eliminating barriers preventing women working in certain occupations would cut the productivity gap between male and female workers by a third to a half, and increase output per worker by three to 25 per cent in some countries.
"We need to achieve gender equality," said World Bank President Robert Zoellick.
Zoellick said that over the past five years, the bank has provided funds to support girls' education, women's health, and women's access to credit, land, agricultural services, jobs and infrastructure.
"This has been important work, but it has not been enough or central enough to what we do," he said.
"Going forward, the World Bank Group will mainstream our gender work and find other ways to move the agenda forward to capture the full potential of half the world's population."
Significant gains in gender equality have been made in recent years.
Women now represent 40 per cent of the global labour force, 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and more than half of university students, according to the report.
Over half a billion women have joined the workforce in the last 30 years, it added.