The East Asia Pacific region has the world’s highest level of female labour participation although more can be done to close the gender disparity gap, according to a report by the World Bank.
Titled “Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific”, the report said that 70% of women in East Asia are involved in economic activities. This is partly attributed to the influx of foreign investment in export-oriented, labour-intensive industries that have created rapid growth in the region in the last three decades.
"Export-oriented manufacturing has provided opportunities throughout South-East Asia for women's increased employment in the formal sector at higher and more regular wages," said Andrew Mason, chief author of the World Bank's report.
The region's "favourable endowments" also contributed to the high female labour force participation rate, said co-author Reena Badiani. "There are high levels of education, low levels of fertility and also favourable social norms towards women working," she said.
The report also said that improving women’s access to jobs and economic opportunity could significantly boost productivity in the region.
“Eliminating inequality of opportunity in economic participation could increase worker productivity in the region by seven to 18%. This has large implications for economic growth and poverty reduction. So, women’s economic empowerment is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do,” noted Pamela Cox, the World Bank’s East Asia Pacific Vice President.
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