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views or policies of the Asian
Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the
data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this paper do not imply
any view on ADB's part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADB's terminology.

Women’s work in Asia and
the Pacific
Sukti Dasgupta
Senior Economist | ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Decent Work for All

ASIAN DECENT WORK DECADE 2006-2015

Today’s presentation
1. Women’s work


Labour force participation
Unemployment
Structural change

2. Quality of work


Status in employment
Skills
Wages

3. Take aways

WOMEN’S WORK

Decent Work for All

ASIAN DECENT WORK DECADE 2006-2015

Women in the labour force
Since the 1990s
• FLFP trends in Asia contrary
to rest of developing world

FLFPR and gender gap (% and
percentage points), developing
regions, 1991 and 2014
80.0
71.0
70.0

63.3
59.159.2

60.0

• Similar trends in gender
gaps…
– increased in South and East Asia
– decreased in South-East Asia and
the Pacific
– significantly declined in other
developing regions

52.3
50.3

50.0

53.7

41.6
40.0

36.0
30.6

30.0
20.0

21.7
17.5

10.0
0.0
Middle South Asia World
Latin South East East Asia
east and
america Asia and
North
and the the Pacific
Africa
Caribbean
LFPR

Source: ILO regional estimates from the TRENDS Model, October 2014.

65.2
60.5

LFPR

Gender gap

Gender gap

Sub
Saharan
Africa

Mixed situation at national level
LFPR by sex and gender gap (%), latest available year
100.0
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
20.0

10.0
0.0

Male

Source: ILO estimates based on national sources.

Female

Gap

Changes through life-cycle
Japan

Malaysia

80.0

80

70.0

70

60.0

60

50.0

50

40.0

40

30.0

30

20.0

20

10.0

10

0.0

0
15-19 20-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64

65 +

15-1920-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Viet Nam
100.0
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
20.0
10.0
0.0

Sri Lanka
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

15-1920-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-59 60 +
Source: ILO estimates based on national sources.

FLFP and development
Relationship between FLFPR and
log GDPpc, Asia and the Pacific

20

40

60

80

Relationship between FLFPR and
log GDPpc, world

6

7

8

9

10

lngdp_pc
flfpr

Note: Data for 169 countries.
Source: Verick, S.: Female labor force participation in developing countries (IZA
World of Labour, 2014:87); Figure 3.

Fitted values

Note: Data for 32 Asian countries.
Source: ILO, Key Indicators of the Labour Market, 2015; World Bank, World
Development Indicators, .

11

Gendered structural change
Industrial composition of women’s
employment (%), 1991 and 2014
100.0
90.0

• Sizeable increase in the
share of working women
engaged in services

80.0
70.0

• Smaller increase in
industry’s share of female
employment

60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
20.0
10.0

• Femininization of agriculture

0.0
1991

2014e

East Asia
Agriculture

1991

2014e

South East Asia and the
Pacific
Industry

Services

1991

2014e

South Asia

% women in agriculture

Source: ILO regional estimates from the TRENDS Model, October 2014.

Sectoral employment
Women’s employment by sector,
2014
South Asia

SE Asia & Pacific

East Asia

0

20,000

40,000

60,000

Source: ILO regional estimates from the TRENDS Model, October 2014.

80,000

100,000

120,000

• Top 3 sectors account for
over 70 per cent of
women’s employment in all
subregions.
• Choice often restricted by
social norms
• Agriculture still the main
employer in all subregions

Trends in unemployment
East Asia

South-East Asia and
the Pacific

South Asia

6.0

8.0

6.0

7.0

5.0

5.0

6.0
4.0

4.0
5.0

3.0

3.0

4.0
3.0

2.0

2.0

2.0
1.0

1.0
1.0

Men

Women

Source: ILO regional estimates from the TRENDS Model, October 2014.

Women

Men

Women

2013

2011

2009

2007

2005

2003

2001

1999

1997

1995

1993

2013

2011

2009

2007

2005

2003

2001

1997

1995

1993

1999
Men

1991

0.0

0.0
1991

2013

2011

2009

2007

2005

2003

2001

1999

1997

1995

1993

1991

0.0

QUALITY OF WORK

Decent Work for All

ASIAN DECENT WORK DECADE 2006-2015

Job quality remains a concern
• Women increasingly in
wage work, but still less
than men

Women’s employment by status,
2014
100.0
90.0
80.0
70.0

• Women overrepresented in
care work and other
contributing family work

60.0
50.0

40.0
30.0
20.0
10.0

• New ICLS definition of
employment has gender
implications

0.0
Men

Women

East Asia

Men

South East Asia and the
Pacific

Men

Women

South Asia

Wage and salary workers

Employers

Own-account workers

Contributing family workers

Vulnerable workers

Source: ILO regional estimates from the TRENDS Model, October 2014.

Women

Job quality remains a concern
(cont’d)
High
agricultural
employment

Many women
in agriculture

Many women
in unpaid and
informal work

Example:
• Indonesia, August 2014
– 34.1% of employment in agriculture
– Similar shares within gender: 32.9% of W and 34.8% of M
– 57.5% of women in agriculture in unpaid work vs. 11.3% of
men.

Source: ILO estimates based on national sources.

Employment and skills
East Asia
• Parity in access to primary and
secondary across continent

700,000

49.0

600,000

48.0
47.0

500,000

• Occupational outcomes vary
with education more for men
than women

46.0
400,000
45.0
300,000
44.0
200,000

43.0

100,000

• Women’s employment in highskill occupations rising faster
than men’s

42.0

0

41.0
Low skills Medium High skills Low skills Medium High skills
skills
skills
1991
Men (000s), left axis

Women's share (%), right axis

Source: ILO regional estimates from the TRENDS Model, October 2014.

2014e
Women (000s), left axis

Employment and skills (cont’d)
South-East Asia and
Pacific
250,000

South Asia
47.0

46.0

200,000

400,000

35.0

350,000

30.0

300,000
45.0
150,000

25.0

250,000
20.0

44.0

200,000
15.0

100,000

43.0

150,000
10.0

100,000
50,000

42.0

0

41.0
Low skills Medium High skills Low skills Medium High skills
skills
skills
1991
Men (000s), left axis

2014e
Women (000s), left axis

Women's share (%), right axis

Source: ILO regional estimates from the TRENDS Model, October 2014.

5.0

50,000
0

0.0
Low skills Medium High skills Low skills Medium High skills
skills
skills
1991
Men (000s), left axis

Women's share (%), right axis

2014e
Women (000s), left axis

Wage gaps persist

60

40
20

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

[CELLRANGE]

80

[CELLRANGE]

100

[CELLRANGE]

120

[CELLRANGE]

Gender wage gaps in Asia and the
Pacific, latest available year

• Disparities most
pronounced in South Asia
but also marked in East Asia
• Range from -40.5 points in
Nepal to +6.1 points in the
Philippines

0

• Wages only indicative
Average wage of men (Index = 100)
Average wage of women, relative to men's wages

Source: ILO Global wage Database 2014/15, based on national statistics.

Wage gaps persist (cont’d)
• Mixed trends across
countries

Trend in average wages, selected
countries
500.0
400.0

• Women’s average nominal
wages growing faster than
men’s

300.0

200.0
100.0
0.0

• Wage gaps decreasing in
most countries, but not by
much

-100.0
-200.0
-300.0
-400.0
Men

Source: ILO Global wage Database 2014/15, based on national statistics.

Women

Gap

Take aways
• Economic development and women’s engagement in the labour market do
not automatically go hand-in-hand, there is a need for policy intervention.
• Policies must account for prevailing social norm.
• General recommendations include:
– Social protection to reduce women’s vulnerabilities
– Investment in education and training
– Policies promoting women’s access to employment across sectors and
occupations
– Promoting shared house work and care responsibilities
– Guaranteeing equal rights through legislation and increasing awareness

ASIAN DECENT WORK DECADE 2006-2015
Decent Work for All

Thank you
For more information
dasgupta@ilo.org