The status of women working in Southeast Asia
Many women at work experience gender barriers that affect their opportunities and hinder career advancements. But even with existing barriers at work, countries in Southeast Asia have made great strides towards gender equity in late years.
A recent report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows that more Southeast Asian countries have closed up the gender pay gap in recent years – with over a 60% score compared to the global average of 68% amassed through surveys of gender politics.
Singapore has seen its own fair share of growth in women’s employment rate aged 25 to 64, from about 73% in 2020 to 76% in 2022. The Singapore Business Federation also launched the Singapore Women Entrepreneurs Network in 2021.
Changing the culture of the workforce becomes imminent when policy makers include women empowerment in their goals – with countries in Southeast Asia having half of their labour force being women.
In the Philippines, lawmakers have passed a bill called the "Menstruation Leave Act" that would give female employees who have worked at least six months up to two days of menstrual leave per month. The Philippines ranked 11th in a list among the highest number of employed women in the world, according to Statista.
On the other hand, Indonesia provides assistance to job seekers through a competency plan called Pre-Employment Card Program. This helped them raise the percentage of working women throughout their country.
Meanwhile, almost half of all workers in Vietnam are female employees which ranks them in the top 15 in the world for the proportion of working women. Vietnam has adopted a number of strategies to ensure gender equity over the last decade.
With more and more countries embracing women at work, gender equity and empowerment become conventional in the workforce. Lawmakers from all across Southeast Asia can ensure gender equity by helping more women stay employed through policies.
Adapting schemes to combat gender bias requires collective effort – but it can start with ourselves, from organisations to entire nations. All it takes is a little bit of enhanced self-awareness and emotional intelligence in order to completely root out unrecognised biases.