Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Not so fast on homophobia economics

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2015 | 8:00 AM

That the economic cost of LGBT discrimination can be calculated is, to be honest, a bit suspicious, but nonetheless a novel way to analyse the LGBT issue.

It is supposed, after all, that if moral suasion and social pressure won't work, perhaps economic implications might bring policymakers to see the light.

Economic arguments, however, might not be very helpful to the case because, as policymakers decide on how to allocate scarce resources and prioritise policy issues, the economic contribution of the LGBT community might, and does, pale in comparison to that of other social and minority groups. Take, for example, the contribution of women and the gender inequality they face.

According to a report by Booz & Company, if female employment rates matched those of men, GDP would increase by five per cent in America and nine per cent in Japan by 2020. The impact, they argue, would be even larger for developing countries, home to most of the world's women who lack adequate education and support (social and political).

 

gender equality

 

The report also indicated that increasing female employment would raise GDP significantly in countries like India and Egypt, where female labour-participation rates are below 30 per cent. In the case of India, researchers have shown that women's inequality may have cost India's economy almost four per cent of annual growth over the past 10 years.

Any policymaker looking at the economic cost of gender inequality, as opposed to the cost of homophobia, would conclude that there is more benefit to be gained from dealing with gender inequality rather than homophobia, which is estimated to cost Jamaica between US$14.36 million and US$244.12 million (a non-economist's estimate). That is a drop in the bucket when compared to a cost of four per cent of GDP on an annual basis.

Following this logic, it makes more sense, from a policy perspective, to promote gender equality over LGBT rights, given the dire economic straits of the country - it is just financially prudent to invest where the most return can be gained.

The research on the economic cost of homophobia by Professor Lee Badgett, as referenced in Anna Perkins' Sunday Gleaner article, 'Costly homophobia' (August 2, 2015), seems to be caught up in a chicken-and-egg analysis of per capita GDP. While the research pointed to a positive correlation between per-capita GDP and the legal rights of LGBT people, it must be made clear that correlation does not mean causation.

Any analysis of this nature cannot, without a shadow of a doubt, conclude that per-capita GDP increased after LGBT rights were recognised. To do this would be to ignore all the other factors that contribute to economic growth at any one time. We cannot be so zealous in our advocacy for LGBT rights that we use economic indicators to muddy the water and create half-truths.

 

class negotiations

 

The LGBT community does play a role in the economy and has done so even amid the homophobia for which Jamaica is notorious. Members of the LGBT community are productive and do make positive contributions to society. The caveat here, though, is that this contribution is negotiated based on class.

Let us face it: If you are gay, educated, financially well off or born into the right family, no amount of homophobia can limit the productive contribution you can make, but if you are gay, poor and illiterate, dawg nyam yuh supper!

So if the Government were to repeal the buggery laws, it does not follow that LGBT persons who fall below the poverty line will automatically become productive and contribute to economic growth. The fact remains that they will still, like everyone else in the population, have to contend with the inequalities associated with class, race and gender.

Donkey seh wurl nuh level, and this is true even in the LGBT community.

- André Poyser is a staff news reporter. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com.