A campaign calling for women in Asia to have gender equality was initiated by a U.N. agency. On a global scale, women are paid 24% less than men. But in Asia, the number is even more dire at 30% less than men.
A recently conducted study shows some alarming statistics. Estimated by the International Labor Organization, gender inequality in employment is costing the world a great deal of money. Across Asia alone, gender inequality results in a cost of over 45 billion USD in a year. Over 45% of working-age women in Asia are outside the labor force. This is almost three times more than the proportion for men which stands at 19%.
The numbers were revealed at a forum at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters by the leader of the U.N. Women agency, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
A simulation predicted the changes that would take place should female employment be at the same level as men. Once again the numbers were shocking. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that if that were indeed the case, per capita GDP would skyrocket by 19% in Southeast Asia. It would rise by 27% in the Middle East and North Africa where disparity in pay between genders is even greater.
Mlambo-Ngcuka feels very strongly about the importance of achieving equal pay for women in this world. She expresses her feelings saying, “We are definitely going to go on a major campaign on equal pay. This is one of the issues we are putting to heads of state, we are also putting that to private sector.” She added, “The issue of equal pay is paramount because we have to win some battles in order for women to be in a position to believe that we’re making progress.”
Gender Inequality for Women in Asia
U.N. Women is pushing for a stand-alone goal on gender equality in Asia and the rest of the world. It will be called Goal 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
The goal is to strive for equal pay on a global scale. Women from Wall Street, to the sugar cane farms in Brazil, to the factories in South Africa are paid less than their male peers. They have talents which are not valued, and allowing that to continue would a violation of women’s rights, according to Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Another alarming statistic is the number of women who work outside home. About seventy-five percent of women who work outside home are in the informal sector. This means they do not have protected work, minimum wage, and pensions, leaving them poor in their old age.
The ADB and U.N. Women announced Tuesday that they will collaborate on a study to track the Asia Pacific region’s progress in meeting its gender equality goals under the SDGs framework which runs until 2030. The study will focus on SDG Goal 5 but will also include all goals and targets to improve women’s lives.
The aim of the SDG Goal 5 is to end all forms of discrimination, violence, and harmful practices against women and girls. Another one of its aims is to recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work undertaken by all female workers.
ADB President Takehiko Nakao said that while the Asia-Pacific region has made progress on gender equality in some areas, a lot of work still needs to be done.
“We must address challenges in areas such as maternal health and employment by creating decent jobs, and ensuring wage parity so women and men, girls and boys reach their full potential,” he added.
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