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Fight for Pride: The Economic Impact of Stigma and Exclusion of LGBTQIA+ Voices

By Unnati Tolani, Edited by Amogh Sangewar

‘Rainbow’ is not just the multitude of colors or the flag representing the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community; on a macro level, it is the symbolic representation of the foundations of diversity, equity, and inclusion, creating a space for psychological and physical safety and establishing trust. In an age when many organizations celebrate Pride month with rainbow logos and Pride-themed merchandise, a recent report from Glassdoor reminds us that there is much more work to be done to create inclusive and equitable workplaces for LGBTQIA+ talent. The report mentions that the LGBTQIA+ employees are less satisfied with company leadership (average rating of 2.88), career opportunities (3.03), and compensation and benefits (3.13) than their non-LGBTQIA+ counterparts. Equality for all forms of gender, the inclusion of all communities, and making the world a safe place for all are essential ‘economic’ issues. It is not just about rainbow capitalism, which refers to incorporating members of the LGBTQIA+ community and sexual diversity-based movement into the capitalism and market economy. It is also about the pride, emotions, respect, and individuality of each human.

Discriminating based on the choice of partners is unfair and violates the idea of living freely and equally. 40% of the Indian population perceives the notion that being an LGBTQIA+ member is a ‘crime.’ Homosexuality is criminalized and not accepted on moral grounds in many societies even today. Bullying and rejection from peers destroy the mental health of people. Bullying is a terrible practice and it results in LGBTQIA+ members skipping or dropping out of school. The statistics indicate that there are possibilities that the LGBTQIA+ youth are denied the freedom to live in their homes and end up on the streets. This hinders the overall development and hence the economic development of a country on a broader scale. If discrimination, joblessness, poverty, food and financial insecurity, and depression are part and parcel of one’s life, it is a sign of waste of human potential. And human capital is the best asset of a country. The value added by them to economic progress and national wealth is dynamic. When a part of a nation suffers from such harsh modes of discrimination and non-recognition, it proves to be a significant obstacle in economic growth.

A study that evaluated 39 countries reported a relationship between marginalization of a country’s LGBTQIA+ community and a corresponding loss of potential economic output. There was also a pilot study conducted by the World Bank, which suggested that unfair treatment and discrimination towards the LGBTQIA+ people in India's developing economy could be costing a loss of potential economic output worth 32 billion dollars a year. The private and the public sector need to prospectively evaluate the facts and figures demonstrating the economic cost of stigma and exclusion and understanding the economic gains by including the community and respecting their rights. The stigma and exclusion of LGBTQIA+ voices lead to varied economic costs.

A survey conducted in 2013 with the college-graduated, white-collar LGBTQIA+ workers depicted that 56% of them faced harassment in the workplaces and hence, a shrunken labor force. Due to significant restrictions on the supply of labor and employment discrimination leads to a significant loss of productivity and output. As mentioned above, ‘bullying,’ being such a morally unacceptable practice, is still witnessed in educational places, and based on ‘sexual orientation,’ people are excluded. Diminishing levels of investment are observed in the human capital due to decreased returns in the educational sector. Even the health sector, one of the most basic services that every human deserves, is not spared. Adding to the stereotypical challenges faced by the LGTBQIA+ members due to the lack of healthcare facilities, they are also victims of depression and mental illness. It is not just the macroeconomic approach but also a behavioral economic approach, as the idea of exclusion from the economy devastates the mental health of any individual. A study concerning lesbians in India found that 4 out of 24 informants attempted suicide in their teenage years. The disparities in employment, education, health, finance, and development sectors account for the ‘economic cost’ of excluding the LGBTQIA+ voices from the market economy. Such unequal treatments passively reduce economic growth, which eventually leads to lower tax receipts for the government and hence, less monetary investment towards health, employment, education, and other essential services.

The LGBTQIA+ rights have been legally recognized to some extent, but we all are aware that we do not see eye to eye when it comes to talking about transphobia and homophobia. There is still a long way to go to realize the potential of rainbow capitalism. Multinational companies need to achieve inclusivity in its truest sense by creating a welcoming space for all the workers and customers and bridge the gap. A recent example is the initiatives taken by PayPal with respect to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. There has been an expansion of employee self-ID options to include non-binary gender status, and updation of PayPal’s governance guidelines of the board of directors to include sexual orientation, and also the addition of pronouns of the company systems. The other companies operating in different sectors need to change the old-school economic policies and understand the gains from the inclusion; otherwise, they will lose out on great talent and productivity. This way, there would be the formulation of widely accepted corporate employer policies of non-discrimination.

All the economic sectors are somewhat interconnected to one specific question - When will we move the bar and achieve inclusion of all forms of gender? When will the economy strive for efficient productivity with all its citizens contributing towards it? When will the investment in human capital made in more immense proportions without any discrimination? Such a vicious cycle can be broken. The answers to all the emerging questions will automatically drive us towards activities that result in higher levels of economic output. A strong coalition between government, ordinary citizens, and the private corporate sector can produce constructive solutions to these problems. The actual power to move the mob lies with the ‘media.’ The media should be encouraged by the government and the civil society to nudge people's attitudes in changing their opinions about the non-LGBTQIA+ people. A committed society can help in expanding the scope and adopting the principle of ‘diversity and inclusion' in a more profound sense. It is rightly said, ‘Diversity is a fact, inclusion is an act.’ If all the stakeholders such as the government, legal system, LGBTQIA+ as well as non-LGBTQIA+ citizens, contribute best and strive for inclusion of LGBTQIA+ voices into the market economy, then the goal can be accomplished. It is, therefore, the need of the hour to manage the pink economy and mix it well with the overall economic structure to identify the growing need for rainbow capitalism.


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