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Southeast Asia can gain from gender parity

The economies of Southeast Asia can boost their collective gross domestic product if existing inequities between genders is eliminated. Gender inequality in Cambodia prevails at the workplace and in society. The country is building a global textile industry on the back of Cambodian women working sewing machines on the garment factory floor. However, they are often overworked and underpaid, and rarely ever promoted to supervisory positions.

One in three Cambodian women working in the industry has suffered sexual harassment on the factory floor. Employers do not pay their female workers correctly for maternity leave and some do not allow paid time off for breastfeeding as required by law.

In Vietnam, women constitute the majority of the jobless, making up over 57 per cent of untrained, unemployed adults. Of 12,300 online job advertisements, one-fifth included gender requirements, of which 70 per cent preferred male candidates. Men are most often targeted for highly professional or technical jobs or jobs requiring much travelling, while women are expected to perform office and clerical jobs.

Southeast Asian women contribute 36.4 per cent of the combined regional GDP. However, this percentage fails to capture the very significant economic value that women create through unpaid care work in the home such as looking after children and the elderly, shopping, cooking, and cleaning.