New World Bank report identifies four priority areas for public action to close lingering gender gaps
MANILA, June 21, 2012 - Improving women’s access to jobs and economic opportunity could significantly boost worker productivity in the Philippines and the rest of the East Asia and the Pacific Region by as much as 18 percent, according to a new World Bank report.
Entitled “Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific,” the report says that while gender equality across the region has improved tremendously, disparities still exist in many areas, specifically in areas like the economy.
“The East Asia and the Pacific Region is vast and diverse, with large differences in economic and social progress – including toward gender equality. In some ways, women in the region are better positioned today than ever before to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from development, but much more needs to be done,” said Mr. Andrew Mason, WB Lead Economist, who discussed the findings of the study with civil society groups, representatives of government agencies, and the private sector. Mr. Mason is the lead author of the report.
“Eliminating inequality of opportunity in economic participation could increase worker productivity in the region by 7 to 18 percent,” said Mr. Mason.
The report shows that the Philippines has gone a long way in enhancing women’s voice both in the home and society. Filipino women have high levels of autonomy, as reflected in control of their own savings, and have the ability to make decisions on matters like health care and household purchases. More women are climbing up the corporate ladder and are either elected or appointed to public office.
The Report also shows that, reflecting regional trends, Filipino women only get 76 percent of what men earn. Also, women in the Philippines and the rest of the region are more likely to work in small firms, to work in the informal sector, and to be concentrated in lower-paid occupations and sectors.
“It is precisely because of these hard truths that we are called upon to be more proactive in creating gender-sensitive policies and implementing them well in the country and the region,” said Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, in her keynote address. “We should start at the basic unit of society that is the home, then to other institutions like the schools, communities, churches, media, corporations, organizations, government and eventually the whole nation and the region.”
Secretary Soliman said the Philippines already has the basic laws and rules that encourage and support women’s contribution to development, including the Women in Development and Nation Building Act (RA 7192) the Magna Carta for Women, which calls for gender-responsive development.
Secretary Soliman added that gender-sensitive policies are already well in place in government’s major poverty reduction programs including Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, a conditional cash transfer program that provides subsidies to poor families for letting their children stay in school and have regular health checks.“This shows just how we are serious in protecting and promoting gender equality,”Secretary Soliman said.
The Report states that promoting gender equality in economic opportunities and voice in society promotes better development outcomes, including higher productivity, increased growth and faster poverty reduction.
“When resources are allocated on the basis of skills and abilities rather than gender, there will be higher productivity that benefits men and women alike,” said World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi. “Healthier, better educated mothers have healthier, better educated children so if we can make the right decisions and allocate the right resource now, we are also investing in the next generation of Filipinos.”
The Report contributes new data and evidence on gender and development, significantly strengthening the ability of countries to formulate evidence-based policy in this area. Drawing on this improved evidence base, the report identifies four priority areas for public action:
· First, promoting gender equality in human development where gender gaps in education and health outcomes remain large.
· Second, closing gender gaps in economic opportunity. Closing these gaps is often warranted on both equity and efficiency grounds.
· Third, strengthening women’s voice and influence—and protecting them from violence. Strengthening women’s voice will enhance the quality of development decision making and, thus, development broadly.
· And, finally, fostering the opportunities and managing the risks associated with emerging regional trends. Taking a gender-aware approach to policy making in this area will lead to better gender—and development—outcomes.