This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
– Woo Chong Um, Deputy Director-General On behalf of the ADB, it’s my pleasure to welcome you all here today. I would like to express my special appreciation to the 4 members of ADB’s External Forum on Gender (EFG) are here today to contribute to the workshop. They here in connection with their annual meeting. Let me give a brief background on the External Forum on Gender and Development (EFG). EFG was established as a mechanism to promote and facilitate dialogue between ADB and external groups on gender equality and women’s empowerment issues and concerns. It allows us to:
tap regularly into current thinking on regional gender issues maintain an on-going dialogue with key gender and development experts
from government, NGOs, academia, and other representatives of civil society on its gender program and activities ; and
develop key strategies for promoting gender equality and women ’s
empowerment in the Asia Pacific region. We greatly value the EFG’s continuous support and that we thank them for making time in their busy schedules to attend their annual meetings at ADB.
The development community has come a long way – in terms of mainstreaming the gender equality in our developmental agenda. Virtually all countries represented here today have already made an international law commitment to improve gender equality in the labor market. Yet, a wide gender gap remains. The World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and the Companion publication covering East Asia and the Pacific, including the Philippines, states that despite improved labor force participation in our region, significant gender inequalities in economic opportunity remain. Women still earn less than men in nearly all sectors, in all countries in the region. Gender gaps increase with age, highlighting the interruptions
to work as result of childbirth and childcare. There is still marked gender occupational segregation and studies point to the phenomenon of “sticky floors” rather than the better known “glass ceilings”. This means that there are wider wage gaps and inequities at the bottom than at the top of the earnings distribution. This is particularly true in the Philippines where we see a significant number of women who have broken the “glass ceiling” in the upper echelons of government and in the corporate sector, but the lives of millions of poor women remain unchanged in terms of wages, economic opportunities and working conditions.
The evidence is not comforting. Gender inequalities persist in women’s access to economic opportunities, employment, decent work, and access to productive resources such as land, credit, and financial services. In 2009, women comprised only 56% of the labor force compared with 81% for men.1 While Asian women entered employment at a faster rate than men during 2000-2007,2 the horizontal and vertical segregation of the labor market remains entrenched. Women are more likely to work in low-productivity agricultural employment and in vulnerable and low-paid informal jobs.
In terms of employment, more than 50% of Asian women and 60% of women in Pacific island states are still concentrated in agriculture. The share of women engaged in wage employment outside of agriculture across the region is only 30%. In South Asia, women’s share of non-agricultural wage employment is only 20%—the lowest among the world’s regions.
ADB and International Labour Organization. 2011. Women and Labour Markets in Asia. Rebalancing for Gender Equality. Bangkok. All data in this paragraph is sourced from this report. 2 All data sourced from ADB and International Labour Organization (ILO). 2011. Women and labor markets in Asia:
Rebalancing for gender equality. Bangkok.
There are some bright spots. We see an exponential growth in the Philippines in some sectors - for example in the BPO sector which employs almost 1 million people, of whom more than 60% are women, employment is set to grow by 25%. These are the positive feel good stories, but what about the millions of women in the Philippines and elsewhere in the region, whose lives will not change in terms of decent work opportunities?
Women are also more likely to work in small firms, to work in the informal sector and to predominate in lower paid occupational sectors. Within small firms women are more likely to be temporary workers with less secure working conditions. In a similar vein, women led enterprises tend to be smaller and less secure than male led enterprises. Female led enterprises, especially in the informal sector, have lower profits and are less likely to be registered, despite the fact that they are not inherently less productive..
Some estimates suggest the region is losing more than $40 billion per year as a result of gender gaps in education and women’s limited access to employment opportunit ies. In countries such as India, Indonesia and Malaysia, the gross domestic product would increase by 2- 4% annually, if women’s employment rates were raised to 70% from the current 30%. ADB attempts to do its part in improving women’s employment opportunities. We do this by putting Temporary Special Measures in our projects, by reserving a range of project jobs for women, from 20 to 50% depending on the country context, in construction jobs in infrastructure, and in Operations and Maintenance (O & M); and our projects also provide training for livelihoods. ADB is committed to ensuring that at least 50% of our projects have gender mainstreaming, which most frequently is about giving women opportunities, employment, and voice, in and through, ADB projects.
We also try to ensure decent work for women by building in equal labor conditions into ADB bidding contracts – for equal pay and labor conditions.
There are also attempts to improve women’s ongoing employment opportunities through investments in the education and TVET sectors. Some of these have paid off handsomely e.g., Skills for Employment project in Nepal. From the tracer study conducted in 2012, 61.3% of graduates obtained employment within a year, with women constituting 52.8% of the employed population. This exceeded the overall target of 50% employment within one year of graduation. Female graduates obtained employment within the year roughly in proportion to their participation rates. Quite remarkably, over 22% of female graduates found employment in the engineering sector, a sector traditionally considered the domain of men.3
Still, the invisible glass “walls”, as well as the glass ceilings, in terms of gendered occupational segregation, remain in the vast majority of the Asia and Pacific region.
What can we do to overcome these barriers to progress? The Regional Workshop we are participating in today and tomorrow, and the regional technical assistance project this workshop covers, attempts to answer some of these questions. We are here today to share the findings of the research of ADB’s regional technical assistance project, Promoting Gender Equality in the Labor Market for More Inclusive Growth, a project which covers the Philippines, Cambodia and
ADB, 2013, Draft Project Completion Report, Nepal: Skills for Employment Project
Kazakhstan. It also provides a regional synthesis of the 3 labor markets studies, shares good practices from around the globe, in social and economic policies; and legislation and legal practices which promotes women’s decent work. I warmly welcome you and thank you for being here today and tomorrow.