Despite an economy in recovery, women workers in Asia still face a life of poverty and exploitation because of prejudice, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Women face discrimination when trying to get better jobs or more pay. This is due in large part to cultural norms and lack of governmental investment. Women continue to remain at the lowest rung in unstable industries.
This ceiling is much more brick-like than glass, and it has serious consequences for their economies.
Enormous economic losses for the region
The ILO and ADB also report that the Asia Pacific region loses $24 billion to $47 billion a year because of limited opportunities for women as well as a loss of $16 to $30 billion because of the gap in education.
Asia’s female labor force accounts for around 734 million women. That’s a lot of missed opportunity.
The solution, of course, is to better educate women, allow more business opportunity, and fundamentally change the way cultures view working women. Although this report is disheartening, there are other places these ideas are working.
The Southeastern region of Nigeria is experiencing a boon in the education of young girls. In 1999, 115 million girls were out of school. According to recent numbers, in 2008, 67 million girls were out of school — a 42 percent decrease.
This, in spite of the fact that the region has received the least amount of government aid. So why the change? According to the Nigeria Country Directory of Ipas, Dr. Ejike Oji, in the Daily Independent, “It has to do with the cultural orientation of the predominantly Igbo-speaking group people.”
The change in cultural dynamics has reduced poverty by 50 percent across the region, according to Oji.
In the small town El Carizal, work is often temporary, seasonal and available only to men.
Even so, a small group of women is making solid headway, according to an article in Hispanic LA.
Despite a momentary boom in the economy due to CBS’s Survivor filming, women still find it hard to work and make enough money. However, while “the men” were working, women in the area started more long-term projects, like the Condiments Carizal Co-Op.
The Co-Op is made up of 10 grandmothers and mothers who decided to become entrepreneurs in their community, selling organic, homemade jam.
With the help of American investors, these women were able to learn about the jam-making process and to boost the effectiveness of their new business. Their five most popular flavors are mango, passion fruit, dragon fruit, pineapple and tamarind. You’d be hard pressed to find these flavors at your local super shopper.
But you might. One of the women, Ilicia, 69, says she hopes the jam can be shipped overseas. Tim Kelly, an initial investor, thinks Americans may see their jams on the local grocery shelves in one to two years.
Photo credit: Oliver Spalt