Two major findings from a recent report show that the 2 billion women living in Asia are still paid less than men for similar work and are extremely underrepresented in top leadership positions, even in wealthy countries such as Japan.
The Asia Society’s report, compiled by a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, warned that “to continue in this direction would put in peril Asia’s many achievements.”
Fortunately for us Malaysian and Singaporean women, these two countries have the narrowest gaps of women being paid less than men at 81 percent, and Mongolia and Thailand at under 80 percent. This is about the average gap globally, where women’s pay are 20 to 30 percent less than men’s.
China holds a middle position in terms of the pay gap, while South Korea has the highest pay gap with its women earning just 51 percent of men’s wages – below Pakistan, Nepal, India, and Cambodia.
Even a country as advanced as Japan showed that women only earned 60 percent of the money earned by men, placing them lower than China. However, this should come as no surprise as Japan has long been known to have a reputation as a male-dominated society.
Women on top
Which leads to another finding in this study that shows Japan came in worst in the region when it came to women in senior corporate positions, with only 5 percent of those positions held by women.
Thailand and the Philippines ranked highest in this regard, with women holding 39 percent of senior level positions, while India came in at 14 percent and China 25 percent, it said, citing a survey by human resources consultancy Grant Thornton International.
Some Asian cultures have long been known to place preference for male children and therefore this problem begins even before birth, with countries like China and India going to the extent of having sex-selective abortions and infanticide. This bias often means that girls in these countries also often receive poorer medical care, nutrition and education than boys.
Change is in order
The Asia Society report urges greater education aimed at valuing girls and women on a par with boys and men, steps to end sex selective abortions and improvement in women’s property rights and other protections to ensure they can contribute fully to society.
The report which surveyed women’s status in health, education, economic activity and political leadership urges improvements to ensure the region benefits fully from its underused pool of human talent.
It also suggests specific countermeasures, such as providing more mentoring, more generous parental leaves, childcare and elder care, and gender-equal retirement packages would encourage women to persevere with their careers to top management positions.
Limits on female employment cost the region $89 billion (RM272 billion) a year in terms of lost productivity and human resources, the report said, citing United Nations data.
The Asia Society, based in New York, is a global nonprofit organisation seeking to promote closer ties between Asia and the West through arts, education, policy and business outreach.
Source: Associated Press