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Women in the workforce: An unmet potential in Asia and the Pacific

Thematic Issue
Women's Economic Empowerment
Year Issued
Name of Authority
Asian Development Bank

This report shows that the low labor force participation of women is intimately related to how they allocate time between market and nonmarket activities. Indeed, in deciding whether to work outside of home, women of whatever education or socioeconomic status tend to put more weight on the need to care for their children and dependents. This choice is reinforced by social norms that emphasize domestic tasks as a woman’s primary responsibility and, in some countries, also constrain women’s social activities and mobility. In some places in Asia and the Pacific, these norms severely limit the possibility for women to achieve wage or income growth or to engage in productive entrepreneurial activities, or both. Thus, policy makers need to focus on the specific reasons behind the gender gap so they can develop and implement effective policies for improving female economic empowerment. This will go a long way in leveling the playing field between men and women as well as unleash a country’s full potential for sustainable economic growth and prosperity.