Women and Labour Markets in Asia: Rebalancing for Gender Equality

Asian Development Bank (ADB), & International Labor Organization (ILO)
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This joint ADB and ILO publication offers evidence-based policy recommendations on strategies to advance gender equality by addressing persistent gender labour market gaps that hinder strong, balanced and sustainable development in the Asia region. While undoubtedly some progress has been made in past decades in addressing gender inequality, discrimination against women remains pervasive throughout the labour markets of the region. Gender inequalities are not only rooted in the socio-cultural norms of countries but also entrenched in the policy and institutional frameworks that shape the employment opportunities of Asia’s female labour force of 734 million. Chapter One provides a short introduction to the publication. Chapter Two presents an overview and trend analysis on where and how women work and under what conditions, and it examines gender inequities that prevail, including in the informal economy. It highlights that despite robust economic growth in the region between 2000 and 2007, gender gaps persist in the labour market in terms of labour utilization and where and how women and men work. It emphasizes that while Asian women have fared relatively better than women in many other regions of the world, their full productive potential remains untapped, and the quality of their employment typically leaves them disadvantaged and vulnerable compared to men. This is evident in the gender gaps in economic activity, concentration of women in low-productivity agricultural employment, and female predominance in vulnerable and low-paid informal jobs. Chapter Two also shows that gender differentials extend to opportunities for mobilizing and organizing, and the ways in which women’s and men’s roles have been coordinated and protected through policies. Gender analysis would be sadly lacking without a focus on the situation of women in the informal economy, given the large size and great significance of the informal economy in Asia and the concentration of women in the most vulnerable categories of informal employment. Women have tended to make up the “buffer workforce” – both within labour markets and as flexible and expanded workers, concentrated in informal jobs and within the household as “secondary earners”.

Governance & Policy