“High contribution, little rewards” for women in Asia: ILO

by HRD06 Mar 2017
Women in Asia still lack access to decent work opportunities, according to a book jointly published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and SAGE.

Figures from “Transformation of Women at Work in Asia” showed that the participation of females in the labour force has either fallen or remained stagnant.

On average, female labour force participation declined in East Asia from 70.8 % in 1994 to 63.3% in 2014, a release from the ILO said. It has also fallen from 36.4% to 30.6% in South Asia over the same period.

“Findings show that women across the continent have contributed significantly to its spectacular growth story; yet, social norms and economic factors limit their levels of participation,” said Sher Singh Verick, deputy director of the ILO country office in India, and co-author of the book.

The book was based on a comparative review of the region and countries analysis covering Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

Findings showed also showed that higher education levels do not translate into increased access to better jobs for women until they have reached beyond secondary schooling.

“It is important to note that labour force participation is only the tip of the iceberg,” Verick said.

“For instance, in advanced East Asian economies, female labour force participation rates that surpass the global average mask the issue of underemployment of female workers. Similarly, in Cambodia and Viet Nam, high participation is accompanied by women’s overrepresentation in unpaid household activities and concentration in low-skill, low-productivity, and low-pay work.”

The study said women in Asia remain at a disadvantage in securing employment, and are more often found to be in vulnerable forms of employment such as self-employment and unpaid care work, concentrated in fewer industries and occupations, and have lower wages than their male counterparts.

“Women in Asia remain at a disadvantage in securing employment, and are more often found to be in vulnerable forms of employment such as self-employment and unpaid care work, concentrated in fewer industries and occupations, and have lower wages than their male counterparts,” said ILO senior economist and co-author of the book Sukti Dasgupta.

The book called for six key policy pillars that promote “decent work and entrepreneurship”:
  • Create more decent jobs which women can access
  • Improve access to quality education & skills/ entrepreneurship development
  • Reduce women's time burden
  • Improve transport and infrastructure
  • Strengthen legal rights and protection
  • Enhance measurement of women's work
“A range of factors continue to keep female labour force participation rates in Asia down much lower than for men, even in countries which are some of the richest in the world (e.g. Japan and Singapore). Social norms and the lack of alternative job opportunities continue to constrain women from accessing jobs,” said Dasgupta.


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