Monday, October 28, 2019

Gender Inequity Issues in the Asia-Pacific

Sadia Rahman
PhD Student National Chung Hsing University

Gender inequity limits the range of talents in the society as well as the in the
Asia-Pacific region, lower participation of females or the so-called ‘glass ceiling’
i.e. lesser participation of females in the senior positions does not fill the vacuum
which has been already been created. Nonetheless, this issue of gender inequity
is gaining attention internationally and much importance is given in the Pacificrim.The United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Goals is a universal
transformative agenda for all and it gives significance to achieve gender equity
by including it in its required list of SDGs goal. Different society has different
historical points in regards to gender equity but the Association of Pacific Rim
Universities (APRU) shared some issues concerning gender inequity:
• Systemic barriers and unconscious bias in promotion and recruitment policy
and practice
• Retention of women in the workforce
• Pay gaps between men and women

Negating gender gaps is of utmost importance to create more sustainable and
inclusive economies and societies and in order to identify barriers to gender equity,
the OECD launched its “Gender Initiative” to help governments promote gender
equality in the three ‘Es’ education, employment, and entrepreneurship. Achieving
gender equity is a challenge as women remain under-represented in key growth 
enhancing fields i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
In this article, I will focus on gender inequity issues and illustrate progress in the
Asia-Pacific region.

A state or government hopes to achieve growth without tapping the full
potential of the other half of the population and be dependent on only one gender
is essentially fighting like one hand tied behind its back. New research done by
McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) found out those Asia-Pacific economies that can
boost their collective GDP by $4.5 trillion per year by 2025 just be progressing
and taking steps towards gender equity. As per the report if we succeed in creating
gender balance it can contribute to growth in three ways: (i) 58% of the gains in
Asia-Pacific will come by raising the female ratio to the male ration of labor force
participation (ii) 17% from increasing women’s work hours and (iii) the remaining
25% from having more women working in higher-productivity sectors. The Asia-
Pacific region should prioritize how to address the gender inequity issue, women
should get higher-quality jobs, being half the population women just contribute
36% percent of the GDP, globally the value of women’s unpaid work performed is
three times higher than men but in Asia-Pacific it’s four times higher. Developing
countries investing in infrastructure can reap dividends by connecting women to
productive work opportunities.

If given a chance women can open countless doors of progress including in
finance also, in fact, women have started to thrive in the burgeoning digital market,
35% of total revenue comes from women-owned business in Indonesia and in
China women found 55% of new internet business. To come at par like men it
requires more training of women because in Asia-Pacific’s booming internet market
digital technologies and double-edged sword. As per the world survey findings from 
the year 2010-2014 in the Asia-Pacific region 44% respondent surprisingly believe
that men are better leaders and the social attitude towards remained unchanged.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to some of the fastest-growing economies and it
seeks to play a greater global role yet women are the active participants, hence it’s
the countries, which need to come out together and take initiatives for financing
more gender equity initiatives, have more gender-based investment and budgeting.
Empowering women and making gender equality a reality should be a priority
and UNDP also recognizes this that women's empowerment and gender equality
are cross-cutting issues that lie at the heart of human development. Equal rights
have been demanded and promised for generations but last year a shift occurred
in the women’s movement, across Asia-Pacific, and around the world women
demonstrated to condemn a status quo that continues to deprive too many women
of respect and equal opportunity.

Improving education and health coverage is imperative and women generally
living in rural areas are more at a disadvantage because of high mortality rates this
places women at an unequal position in the labor market, the data shows that over
the past thirty years female labor market participation has declined in the Asia-
Pacific region. To overcome this a bold move is undertaken by the United Nations
Economic Social Commission, which includes gender-responsive budgeting.
This step is a great contribution to reducing the burden of unpaid work enhancing
women’s opportunities for leadership in the workplace and in political and public
life. Equality at work goes hand in hand with gender equality in society even
though noticeable advancement comes unless and until the traditional attitudes
that define women’s primary role is in the home are shattered efforts will still be
overlooked and undermined.

Proper statecraft is required to address this inequity challenge, it requires to
dismantle several barriers along with it working companies should also provide
flexible working options. Regional collaboration should be pursued to achieve
gender equality in the Asia-Pacific region because regional partnerships are
generally established around shared goals that can give national and local efforts
more momentum. What boosts this gender inequity challenge is that the region
lacks that journey towards gender equality giving equal status to women in a
leadership position will craft a path towards equality, as more laws and regulations
will be drafted as per the convenience of women’s. Efforts and more opportunities
should be provided to women entrepreneurs with better access to finance and ICT
that can keep them in work enabling their businesses to innovate. These businesses
will be like incubators for future generations of women’s leaders.

Georgette Tan, Master Card’s group head of communications for the Asia-
Pacific region said that although opportunities exist for women to pursue higher
education, labor market conditions are not always conducive for women. While
women in 10 out of 16 Asia-Pacific markets surveyed outnumbered men in tertiary
education, New Zealand (50.6) and the Philippines (50.1) are the only markets
with more than 50 women for every 100 men in leadership positions. According
to the United Nations, limited women’s work participation in the Asia-Pacific
region costs an estimated $89 billion per year so besides education much needs to
be done to achieve equality and empowerment in this segment. Another issue that
needs to be addressed will be that countries in Asia-Pacific will face the ageing
issue, from 2016-2050 the number of older persons in the region is expected to
more than double from 547 million to 1.3 billion. Ageing has a gender dimension
in Asia-Pacific, the demographic trends show that more women than men will
join the old age cohorts and because women face cultural and economic obstacles 
to participate in society the cumulative effect of discrimination will be onerous
towards older age.

The solution lies in innovation, the policymakers need to address these
challenges and overcome the gender inequity problem so that women can also
work as their male counterparts in all the sectors of society.

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