Why the GDP Was Yesterday and Jacinda Ardern is the Woman of Tomorrow

by Natascha Zeljko

Seven questions for Patrizia Laeri, economic editor and presenter on Swiss television, columnist, advisory board member of the Institute for Digital Business (HWZ), and sought-after panelist

Where does your fascination with money and finance come from?

Actually, I’ve always been interested in this topic. I studied economics and originally wanted to become a management consultant, but when I finished my studies, which was around the turn of the millennium, I found myself in the middle of the dotcom crisis. The strategy consultants weren’t hiring any more people, but media companies  were desperately looking for economists who could explain the irrational exaggerations in the markets. So I went into the media industry, which was originally my plan B. Today I’m very happy that it turned out this way.

What’s exciting about your job?

My job is to educate people, making financial knowledge more attractive and interesting. Especially as money is even more important for women than it is for men. We earn less, the wage gap still being as high as 19 percent. Inequality begins at school age – girls get less pocket money. And later it goes on something like this: mothers with children often work part-time, resulting in an extreme pension gap. In other words, poverty in old age is female. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we live longer. So we actually need more money than men. Or to put it another way, it is quite difficult for a woman to die rich. But the few women who tackle the topic of finance and buy securities, for example, are more successful than men. Women also invest more sustainably and long-term. The time has come to finally break down a few of these stereotypical images.

You mentioned the gender pay gap. How can that finally be closed?

Among other things, digitalization could actually help. Numerous rating portals like Glassdoor or Kununu bring transparency in terms of jobs and salaries. You can find detailed reports on corporate culture, working time models, and pay. Millennials in particular use these portals intensively. This generation is critical, they exchange ideas, and networking is becoming more important. Women are also increasingly networking via digital channels. For us, digitalization has many positive effects.

How has social media changed your job?

Younger media women are well networked and very agile. When a magazine gave my cover photo the sexist headline “Vorsicht, klug” [“Caution: Clever”], we got a smart storm going in no time at all. I asked on Twitter if there had ever been such a headline for a man. As a result, journalists, politicians, and many other women tagged their social media profiles with the hashtag #vorsichtklug [“cautionclever”]. The hashtag trended for days in Switzerland.

Coming back to the subject of business: I read in an interview with you that you think the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is outdated. To what extent do we need a new indicator, and what would it have to reflect?

We should ask: what makes life worth living? The old recipes of politics and business no longer provide suitable answers. The GDP measures blindly past people and only reflects what is produced. Consumption and production please the GDP. What is not considered at all are things like open source or free, digital access to knowledge and education. A digital exchange economy was never intended in the GDP, which is no wonder as it comes from the 30s. At the same time it ignores social inequality, happily continuing to rise although the disposable income of the masses decreases. Important factors such as sustainability are also not taken into account. It is almost cynical: the index grows when pollution or the number of crimes or divorces increases. But something is changing – the number of critics is growing, including renowned technology professors, top economists, and heads of state.

Which countries are already exemplary, leading the way?

Countries like New Zealand, Sweden and – this is surely surprising for many – the Emirates already don’t govern alone after the GDP, but orient themselves to what really improves people’s lives. New Zealand, led by the youngest head of government in the world, Jacinda Ardern, goes furthest – agreed on by organisations such as the OECD and the International Monetary Fund. Data show that health and education are factors of happiness. New Zealand is therefore increasing its budgets in these areas. The island, which was the first country to introduce women’s suffrage, is once again at the forefront and is providing important impetus. Switzerland should only be as courageous and open a new door. Two years ago, federal statisticians presented a concept that measures what makes life really worth living.

Could you give us your outlook for the next five or ten years?

In Switzerland there are elections this year. With #helvetiaruft [“Switzerland is calling”] we have launched a campaign, supported by all parties, for more women in politics. This will be our year! I am therefore looking forward to more progress and more family-friendly policy in the coming years. Switzerland has one of the most misogynistic economies in the world – the most expensive childcare system in the world, no parental leave -– and is therefore reprimanded annually by the OECD. Together with Afghanistan, we were the last country to obtain women’s suffrage. My mother was born without voting rights and was not allowed to learn a profession. There is still a lot of catching up and work to be done.


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