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LGBT exclusion is costly for Asia

HONG KONG   Aside from the moral implications, stigmatization of minority groups can translate into huge economic losses, research shows.     

     "Billions of dollars are lost simply because of treating LGBT [people] unfairly," said Lee Badgett at The Economist Intelligence Unit's Pride and Prejudice 2016 conference, which took place in Hong Kong, London and New York on March 3. Badgett, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was referring to a study she carried out for the World Bank and the Nordic Trust Fund that was published in October 2014. For example, she found that India had seen 1.7% of its gross domestic output vanish due to LGBT discrimination in the workplace.

     Such losses mainly came from lower productivity as a result of labor supply constraints induced by prejudice against the employment of LGBT people, reduced returns from inefficient human capital investment in this group, and lost output from exclusion-linked health problems.

     In another piece of research, she found that the advancement of LGBT rights, whether through implementing nondiscrimination laws, from recognition by their family, or the decriminalization of homosexuality, was associated with 3% higher gross domestic product per capita.

     Although Badgett acknowledges that more affluent countries tend to be more ready to liberalize individuals' rights, she believes that LGBT people in developing Asian countries would have delivered more to the economy if they had been given more opportunities. "Those two things go hand-in-hand. Economic growth helps LGBT people, and LGBT people's rights helps economic growth," said Badgett.

     From the perspective of business enterprises, Badgett said that creating an inclusive environment for the LGBT community would enable significant cost savings in terms of lower labor turnover, recruitment and retention of staff. 

     Goldman Sachs, ranked the top employer for LGBT inclusion in 2015 by Community Business, a Hong Kong-based nonprofit organization, is actively bolstering what it calls "a compelling business case." Last year the bank mobilized 1,600 employees to support its Pink Friday event, where people wore pink T-shirts stating their personal connection with the LGBT community on the back.

     Outside of the financial services sector, tech juggernaut Google has pushed forward the provision of health care for same-sex partners of its staff in 11 of the 13 Asia-Pacific markets in which it operates, while consultancy McKinsey helps its LGBT employees relocate globally to ensure they are working in a conducive and accepting environment.

     Investors and smaller businesses are also increasingly eyeing the LGBT community as a potential market.

     "For us, it's trying to get investment insight," said Amanda McCluskey, head of sustainable investment at Stewart Investors, an Edinburgh-based fund manager that targets emerging markets.

Read more online "Counting the cost of excluding LGBT communities in Asia." 

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