“Mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment is at the heart of APEC’s inclusiveness agenda,”
in 2016, a bill seeking to expand maternity benefits for women in the private
sector passed unopposed in the Philippine Senate. It sought to increase paid maternity leave
from 60-100 days regardless of mode of birth. This is important to note because
in the Philippines, normal delivery has less maternity leave entitlement
compared to surgical birth. While awaiting final passage into a law, this
development is hailed
as one that promotes over-all wellness for mothers performing both maternal and
whose core agenda is regional economic integration, considers gender inclusion
as an important part of its work. While the past decades have shown progress in
mainstreaming gender-related issues in the region, opportunities to widen this
policy by raising awareness on the status of women in society is one of the
aims of the ‘Women and the Economy Dashboard’, a facility developed by APEC that
includes 80 indicators of women’s legal, political, educational, financial, and
technology-access status in the region.
Dashboard is used to monitor and track barriers to women’s economic
participation. By enabling direct comparisons between different economies, it helps
policymakers identify which economies have been more successful in certain
women-related areas, and encourages economies to learn from best practices.
gender equality and women’s empowerment is at the heart of APEC’s inclusiveness
agenda,” says Emmeline L. Verzosa, chair of the APEC’s women and economy arm in
2015. “The Dashboard is a concrete tool to measure progress on the advancement
of women in their economic pursuits – and the Dashboard will show the progress APEC
economies are making."
fact that leaders recognize the Dashboard shows a high level of commitment to
collect data and use the tool,” she explains.
to Verzosa, the Dashboard will provide the framework that APEC economies need
to create and introduce individual action plans over the next five years.
providing governments and civil society groups with comparative data, we can help
APEC member economies develop their own set of aspirational and measurable goals,”
she says. “With working groups and policy partnerships taking a gender
perspective, we hope to see more women entrepreneurs levelling up the global
Philippines leads APEC’s female
by Huani Zhu and Carlos Kuriyama of the APEC Policy Support Unit, the Dashboard
contains 22 individual report cards – one for each economy – including one for
the APEC region as a whole. It aggregates economies’ own data with information
published by multiple global organisations, including the United Nations, the
World Bank, the International Labour Organisation, the World Economic Forum and
the World Health Organisation.
adopting the Dashboard as an instrument to measure progress, APEC has
explicitly linked a societal challenge to an economic opportunity.
year, APEC’s agenda highlighted issues concerning the need for inclusive growth
as part of economic development. As a result, this thematic direction included
measures to promote gender-related issues, especially in the context of small-
and medium-sized enterprises” says Kuriyama.
points out that the Philippines, chair of APEC 2015, is an ideal supporter of the
initiative given its record in lowering gender barriers. According the World
Economic Forum Index, the Philippines is Asia’s leader in closing the gender
gap. A survey by the Asian Institute of Management reveals that women are either
owners or managers of 63 per cent of Philippines businesses.
Across-the-board reporting, with global
aid research, the indicators are arranged into five principal areas where women
face obstacles: access to capital and assets; access to markets; skills,
capacity-building and health; leadership, voice and agency; and innovation and
technology. By drawing on historical data, the Dashboard already shows which of
these areas present the biggest challenges to APEC economies.
Dashboard reveals some fascinating statistics,” says Zhu. “For example, it
shows that while 59 per cent of women aged over 15 were economically active
between 2008 and 2013, only 38.5 per cent possessed a savings account with a
financial institution. This means more efforts are needed to increase women’s
access to financial services and women’s participation in the formal labor
female participation in leadership is generally low,” she continues. “For
instance, women’s participation at the highest levels of political decision
making and in other positions of influence in media, judiciary and academia is
Biggest challenges: access to labour
markets and long-term careers
Dashboard highlights obvious opportunities for reforms in the labor market. In
particular, Kuriyama points out a wide variance in legal safeguards that
protect women’s ability to advance their own careers.
clear that men and woman generally do not have equal access to labour markets,
and the Dashboard allows us to identify specific inadequacies,” he says. “Only
half of APEC legal systems guarantee women the right to do the same jobs as
men. Almost half of APEC economies fail to make non-discrimination a statutory
obligation during the hiring process.”
Dashboard also reports on the specific measures APEC economies adopt to enable
women to pursue careers and reach leadership positions. These include legal
protections for employees who become mothers.
economies give women legal rights to an ‘equivalent position’ when returning
from maternity leave,” reports Kuriyama. “However, in only seven economies is equal remuneration for men and woman doing work of equal value a legal
right, and just three prohibit employers from inquiring about family status
during a job interview.”
A springboard for practical empowerment
aggregating data on women’s economic engagement, and placing it into a
comparative framework, APEC is creating a robust, impartial reference point
that can inform policy, stimulate debate, and monitor progress.
allows each economy to compare its status to that of neighbouring economies,”
adds Verzosa. “Internally, leaders can use the results to take action. The Dashboard
provides advocacy groups with the data they need to frame proposals and make a
persuasive case for change.”
the Dashboard gains traction across the region, Kuriyama believes that it will
become more comprehensive, and therefore progressively more useful.
spurring action, the Dashboard acts as a catalyst for data-gathering,” he says.
“With better data, we can build a more comprehensive view of women’s economic
engagement across all APEC economies, which will ultimately help policymakers
who seek to build a more inclusive society.”
For more information:
Ma. Lizbeth Barona-Edra | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tran Trung Hoa, Viet Nam