Policies impacting women’s economic advancement have improved in some areas, but more reforms are needed to enable women to fully thrive, reports the newly updated APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard 2019.
Launched at the annual APEC Women and the Economy Forum, the dashboard, prepared by the APEC Policy Support Unit, identifies gaps in opportunities that women face in the APEC region. In turn, the dashboard helps the forum’s 21 economies to respond with corrective policies.
“The dashboard was developed by APEC members who rightly believe that economies have to identify the problem in order to address it properly,” said Dr. Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat at the forum. “Now that we can see the gaps, economies can prepare the policy actions needed to help women thrive.”
Updated every two years, the dashboard consists of 95 indicators that track developments in five key areas: access to capital and assets; access to markets; skills, capacity-building and health; leadership, voice and agency; and innovation and technology.
The findings show that legislation can both improve and impede a woman’s economic position. For example, most APEC economies protect women’s rights to property and inheritance, enabling them to use the assets as collateral when applying for loans to start or maintain a business.
However, the dashboard shows that only 9 economies have laws that prohibit creditors from discriminating based on gender, and only 7 economies prohibit discrimination based on marital status.
The report also reveals that labor regulations are inconsistent on gender parity. All 21 APEC economies allow women to work the same night hours as men, and 18 economies have laws that caution against hiring based on gender. Yet some economies still restrict women from working in select sectors, such as mining and construction, and in jobs with physical requirements.
“In education, women are almost at par with men in literacy and enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions,” said Carlos Kuriyama, a co-author of the report.
“However, in 2016, some 23.4 percent of women 15-49 years old in APEC suffer from anemia, compared to 18.7 percent in 2008.” Anemia can impact one’s performance at school and at work.
Career advancement in general has proven to be a challenge for women who have children. Only 11 economies guarantee a woman’s return to an equivalent position after maternity leave, while only 10 economies mandate parental leave and grant tax deductions for childcare costs.
“These inadequate laws effectively penalize women who work, by making it difficult for them to balance family and work responsibilities, and advance in their careers,” said Rhea Crisologo Hernando, a co-author of the dashboard, which is an initiative of the APEC Policy Partnership for Women and the Economy.
And while much of job creation will be in fields related to the technology industry, not many women are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in comparison to men. Only one APEC economy reported parity between the number of male and female graduates in these fields in recent years.
One way to improve these statistics is by having more women as policy-makers. The ratio of women’s representation in political leadership has not risen above 22 percent in the last decade.
“More women’s representation in political decision-making is essential as women also need to be part of the solution,” said Carlos Kuriyama.
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