The economic costs and development impact of exclusion of LGBT people

14 March 2014

New data show that the effects of homophobia and exclusion could be costing economies billions of dollars. In a panel discussion organized by the World Bank, participants discussed the findings of a new study that developed and tested an economic model to measure the cost of excluding sexual minorities. The panellists also debated the broader implications of a new wave of punitive legislations being passed in countries around the world.

The study highlights that in India, where homosexual behaviour is criminalized and no protective legislation exists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, it is estimated that up to 1.7% of GDP is lost in one year due to homophobia and exclusion of LGBT. The loss of labour productivity and output because of employment discrimination and the loss of life years due to early death or disability could generate costs of up to US$ 31 billion in India alone. These preliminary estimates were presented by Dr Lee Badgett from UMass Amherst, one of the major public research universities in America.

Panellists highlighted the need for continued stronger data and evidence on the impact of exclusion for development as well as the continued need for the mobilisation of the international community to protect marginalised groups from being excluded from development and health.

UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Dr Luiz Loures was among the invited special guests and panellists, together with Ms Tracy Robinson, Commissioner, First Vice President, Rapporteur for the Rights of LGBTI Persons at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;  Dr Amy Lind, Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at University of Cincinnati; Mr Dennis van der Veur, Head of Sector Cooperation with EU Institutions and EU Member States, FRA of the European Union, and Dr Qing Wu, Senior Economic Analyst at Google. The discussion was facilitated by Lester Feder from Buzzfeed.


“Punitive laws are affecting our efforts to end the AIDS epidemic and are impacting countries’ economies. Inclusive, rights-based responses are the hall-marks of the AIDS response and offer platforms on which to build. We need more evidence and data to convince policy makers and politicians about the need to address LGBT issues and homophobia, to ensure protection of human rights and equity in health and development.”

Dr Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director and Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

“The issue is not only the punitive and discriminatory laws but also that those impact attitudes in the society as a whole. The role of communities in changing the values and promoting justice for all is immense.”

Dr Edward Greene, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for AIDS in the Caribbean

“Protection of human rights and empowering people are important for strengthening economic outcomes and sustainable development. The study on the economic cost of homophobia towards LGBT presented today that we have supported, is a clear example of how important it is to start looking at the economic implications of homophobia and exclusion to better inform how we can work on poverty reduction and inclusive development.”

Ms Satu Santala, Executive Director for Nordic and Baltic Countries, Member of the World Bank Board of Directors

“Every time a girl drops out of school in Pakistan, every time a man who has sex with another man gets HIV, and every time the Roma community is defamed, society pays a heavy price. Excluding sexual minorities is not only a human tragedy but it is also a significant self-inflicted economic wound, and so we at the World Bank need to listen to their voices.”

Mr Fabrice Houdart, Team Lead, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Development, World Bank, chair of the event


The World Bank