Asia’s female workforce has been shrinking, report warns

By on 25/09/2015 | Updated on 27/01/2022
Women’s participation in Asia’s workforce has fallen by almost ten percentage points between 1990 and 2013

Women’s participation in Asia’s workforce has fallen by almost ten percentage points between 1990 and 2013, a new report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which calls on governments to take steps to reverse this trend, has found.

In its report, titled Asian Development Outlook 2015 Update: Enabling Women, Energising Asia, ADB says that Asia’s economic boom has delivered many dividends to girls and women in areas such as literacy, life expectancy, and reduced female infant and child mortality rates.

But the report, which was published last week, also finds that women’s participation in Asia’s workforce has fallen from 56% in 1990 to 49% in 2013 as it increased in every other region of the world.

Some of the fall can be attributed to rising incomes and women spending more time in school, the report says, which adds that “an unfair load of housework, child and elderly care, cultural biases, limited vocational training, and institutional and legal obstacles also act as barriers.”

Despite girls having caught up with boys in education in recent years, developing Asia still has some of the largest gaps in the wages that women earn compared to men, highlighting that education on its own is not enough to close the gap in earnings, the report says.

The report says that taking strong proactive measures to get more women into productive, well-paid jobs, entrepreneurship, and leadership positions will bring multiple and long-lasting economic and social benefits to developing Asia.

ADB chief economist Shang-Jin Wei said: “Both Asian men and women have gained tremendously from the rapid growth in the region. Yet closing the gender gaps in pay and in participation rates in the labor market is still work in progress.

“Strengthening women’s place in the labor market is not only a social justice issue, but also a matter of maximising economic efficiency.

“By eliminating all gender disparities to make full use of women’s potential, Asia and the Pacific could see a rise in income by about 30% over a generation.”

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration.

Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region.


Click here to download the full report

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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