Asian women still suffer pay gap, inequality at work: study

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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A job fair in Ho Chi Minh City last month. Photo: Khanh An A job fair in Ho Chi Minh City last month. Photo: Khanh An


Nguyen Thi Ngoc Bich has come to terms with the fact that she may never earn as much as her husband.
The 39-year-old accountant in Ho Chi Minh City said, due to the pay gap, she is expected to do most of the housework in the family.
“Money talks. I make less money and so I do the chores,” said Binh.
This is not a rare story in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, where women generally earn less than men.
A recent report by Oxfam found that women and men across Asia continue to experience gaps in status, pay and access to rights in the workplace as women’s work is generally underpaid and undervalued.
On average, women in Asia earn between 70 and 90 percent of what men earn, according to the report. “The secret of Asia’s competitiveness in the global market is simple: paying poor women low wages and assigning them all unpaid care work,” it said.
Around 75 percent of women’s work in Asia is in the informal economy, without access to benefits such as sick pay or maternity leave.
Many women are employed in the agricultural sector, where productivity and incomes are low.
Meanwhile, women carry out around 2.5 times the amount of unpaid care work that men do, the report found.
A 2015 report by UN Women also found that on average women around the world earn 24 percent less than men and earn just half of the income men earn over a lifetime.
Maria Dolores Bernabe, policy and research coordinator for Oxfam’s Asia Regional Center, said most countries in the region have minimum wage laws and policies to help uphold minimum standards of payment for workers.
“Unfortunately, a study in 11 countries found that the application of minimum wage laws is lowest for women from ethnic minorities or indigenous groups,” she told Thanh Nien News.
Public investment in the care economy can create good quality jobs for women, reduce gender inequality, and also support economic growth, she said.
Bernabe also called for more policies implemented by governments and businesses to address the gender wage gap and promote the rights and interest of women.
“Adopting policies that address the issue of gender wage gaps, unpaid care work and need for living wages can help create a regional economy that offers more opportunities, rather than challenges for women.”

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