Bangkok: Women in parts of Asia still struggle to find decent jobs despite rapid economic growth, and when they do, they face discrimination and inferior pay, the UN labour rights watchdog said on 10 May.
Discriminating against any group, including women, migrant workers or people with disabilities, not only puts people at risk of exploitation, but harms economic competitiveness, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) added.
“Discrimination is not just a breach of human rights, rather it is a departure from economic common sense,” Gek-Boo Ng, ILO Asia Pacific director, said at the regional release of its annual report on equality at work.
Around the world, more women were entering the workplace, but the report highlighted South Asia as being one of the worst regions for gender equality, with just 43.5 % of women in work.
India was one of the worst offenders, with 26% women in work, compared to 84.1% of men. This was well below the global average of 56.6% of women being in the labour market.
Southeast Asian countries Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei were also singled out for the low number of women in the labour force, but overall in East Asia and the Pacific, 61.2% of women were in work.
The gender pay gap was particularly wide in South Asia, the report said, where 60% women worked without any pay at all which is the maximum in the world.
According to the report East Asia and the Pacific fared better, but the pay gap was still huge, with female manufacturing workers in Japan and South Korea earning less than 60% of the wages of their male colleagues.
“There has been massive improvement in terms of education and women’s participation in the labour force,” ILO gender specialist Nelien Haspels told reporters in Bangkok. Though this has not translated to equality between men and women in the labour market.
Female migrants were particularly vulnerable, the ILO said, with many ending up in jobs where they have little legal protection, such as domestic workers or prostitutes.
Discrimination was not just by gender, the report said, but also by religion, caste, social origin, and increasingly on HIV/AIDS status, age and disability. Most economies in Asia are booming, so now is a good time to invest in equality is the parting shot by the UN experts.