June 29, 2009 / 6:41 AM / 10 years ago

Downturn creates more working mothers in Asia

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - The economic crisis is turning more Asian women into CFOs, or chief family officers, according to a new survey, juggling work and childcare as they try to boost the family income.

A mother and her child walk amid a sandstorm in Lanzhou, Gansu province April 23, 2009. REUTERS/China Daily

Three in four people in Asia believe women are capable of juggling work and family successfully, the massive survey of 33,000 people in 16 countries showed.

Asian women have long been part of the region’s workforce, but the global economic downturn has made having a job a necessity for most, according to the “Eye on Asia” poll by global marketing communications firm Grey Group.

“This, however, has put a lot of pressure on many women, who in addition to having a career, must also take on the role of chief family officer,” Charu Harish, regional communications planning director for Grey Group Asia Pacific, told Reuters.

“Because of the traditional attitudes, women feel they must be the picture-perfect wife, mother and employee, which puts them in an unfair, and little recognized, position.”

According to the survey, one of the largest snapshots of opinions and trends in the region, nearly 90 percent said it was necessary for mothers to work to contribute to the family income, especially in the current economic climate.

The same survey found that a majority — 86 percent — of Asia Pacific respondents worry about their finances and were saving for the future.

Over three-quarters believed women were capable of doing both — taking care of the family and having a job at the same time — even though, given a choice, many mothers would prefer to stay at home and watch their children grow up, Harish said.

Some 81 percent of mothers surveyed said they felt so busy these days that they did not spend enough time with their children, which Harish said, led to many mums over-indulging their children to assuage their guilt.

This was particularly the case in the fast-paced economies of Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, but less so in developing countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“In many ways, women have evolved, while many men still maintain a traditional attitude and do not acknowledge that they need to take part in the child-minding and running the house,” Harish said.

Overall, nearly two-thirds of Asians said they felt society supported working mothers, which, in many cases, meant grandparents taking care of the children.

Harish said that while this was the most convenient child-care solution, it was creating tension in families due to the generational gap. “The older generations believe in stronger discipline, while the parents tend to be more liberal, and their children even more so,” she explained.

The survey polled 33,000 people in 16 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. For more details click on www.greyeyeon.asia

Editing by Valerie Lee

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