Lack of jobs for women costs Asia billions yearly: report

Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:06pm EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Poorly employed Asian women pose both old and new challenges to the world's fastest growing region, with nearly half of them without jobs and struggling with perennial issues of lower wages and fewer chances for education.

But now, their lack of job opportunities is also costing billions of dollars a year in Asia, a report said on Friday.

"Asian women have certainly been an engine of the region's economic dynamism," the report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Labour Organization (ILO) said.

"But 45 percent of working-age Asian women were inactive compared to 19 percent of men, and differentials persist in the types of jobs women and men have access to."

As a result, even before the global economic crisis, the Asia-Pacific region was losing a potential $42 billion to $47 billion annually -- a situation that has likely only worsened.

Though overall regional unemployment rates for women remain better than those for men, at 4.3 against 4.7 percent in 2009, this does not necessarily mean that the jobs they have are good, the report warned.

Many of these jobs are poorly-paid and may be in the "informal" economy, meaning they are more vulnerable to economic fluctuations in times both good and bad.

For one thing, demand may be high for women in labor-intensive manufacturing jobs. But it is largely due to women being seen as willing to accept lower wages, easier to manage and less likely to unionize, and easier to dismiss, with marriage and childbirth as excuses.   Continued...