30 May 2011

More is Required Against Gender Inequality

Gender Equality
According to a new report prepared jointly by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), although Asia is helping to lead the global economy, recovery of the labor market from the recent global economic and financial crisis has not kept pace.

The report entitled, "Women and Labor Markets in Asia: Rebalancing for Gender Equality", says that in some developing countries, particularly in East Asia, job growth is back, but the quality of jobs created is a major concern. In particular, 45 per cent of the vast productive potential of Asian women remains untapped, compared to just 19 percent for Asian men, the report released on Friday said.

Even before the crisis, Asia was estimated to be losing between US$ 42 billion and US$ 47 billion a year because of limits on women's access to employment opportunities and another $16 billion to $30 billion a year because of gender gaps in education, according to estimates by the United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Although the region's economic growth of 6.2 per cent in 2000-2007 greatly exceeded the global average of 4.2 per cent, average growth in women’s employment was just 1.7 percent- below the world average of 2 per cent.

These deficits are likely to have increased during the crisis, the report noted, because women disproportionately shouldered the impact due to pre-existing gender inequalities. They include discrimination throughout the region’s labor markets, inequality rooted in socio-cultural norms and national policy and institutional frameworks that shape the employment opportunities of Asia’s 734 million female workers.

The report said that, "There is now a window of opportunity to address systematic gender inequalities as well as the symptoms thrown up by the crisis, and achieve full labor market recovery and successful rebalancing."

It added that the policy goal should not be to return to the 'normal' pre-crisis situation but to rebalance towards a new development trajectory, one that is job-rich, just, sustainable and inclusive.

"Asia faces both old and new challenges and it needs to address both if it is to reap the social and economic benefits of gender equality," said Sachiko Yamamoto, ILO regional director for Asia and the Pacific.

"The drive to rebalance towards more sustainable, fairer development must not distract policy-makers from dealing with ingrained gender inequalities. One cannot succeed without the other, and the social and economic costs of missing this opportunity will be felt for decades. The ILO stands ready to help with this, an important step towards the goal of decent work for all," the ILO regional director said.

The report pointed out that poor quality jobs are a greater labor market challenge for women than unemployment. A large proportion of women in Asia toils in low-productivity, vulnerable and low-paid informal work. In addition, female youth unemployment is high and women remain largely perceived as a buffer workforce – or secondary earners – next to men.

Suggested policies include: support for women entrepreneurs; assisting women working in agriculture to boost productivity; reducing Asia’s over-reliance on the informal sector; promoting equal access to quality education and training; gender-responsive social protection; ensuring equality in representation and decision-making; and following a rights-based approach.