Southeast Asia with its population of more than 640 million women and men is one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world. While gender equality contributes to economic growth, the inverse is not necessarily true. Over the last 25 years, progress towards closing gender gaps has stalled and is even reversing in some countries in Asia, despite the fact that women are more educated than ever. In short, economic growth is not being shared equally between women and men nor delivering decent work for all. This is clear from the following gender gaps in the world of work: the female labour force participation rates are persistently lower than male rates across all ASEAN Member States (AMS); in almost all AMS women tend to find employment predominantly in low skill and low paying jobs and precarious work underlying a persistent gender wage gap; women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment, encounter sexual harassment and are more likely to be an unpaid contributing family worker, which offers the least opportunities for decent work; care work responsibility is on women’s shoulders and little appetite exists to promote measures for men and women to share work/family responsibilities; digital technology and e-commerce are not currently a level playing field between men and women; social protection including maternity benefits for working mothers and fathers do not apply everywhere; and women migrating for work – nearly half of all migrant workers in ASEAN countries – are disproportionately represented in jobs with lower pay and fewer labour protections leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse particularly in domestic work.

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