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Economic Opportunities for Women in the East Asia and Pacific Region

Several gendered characteristics of the export-led growth story of many of the region’s economies are notable: • Women have formed an increasing share of the paid labor force since the adoption of export-oriented strategies. • Women’s share of manufacturing jobs has risen and is higher than their share of jobs in the economy as a whole. Further, within the manufacturing sector, women have been concentrated in labor-intensive industries that produce primarily for export. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has estimated, for example, that women make up as much as 70–80 percent of the more than 27 million employees in export processing zones (EPZs) around the world (ILO 1998). While data disaggregated by region are not currently available, given the concentration of EPZs in East Asia, this finding is of particular significance to the region. • Women employed in the manufacturing sector receive significantly lower wages than men, although the degree of gender wage inequality varies greatly within the region. Educational attainment, itself a reflection of gender inequality, explains some of this variation, but the gap remains large after controlling for productivity differentials (Seguino 2000). See box 4.1 for a more detailed presentation of country-level evidence on the gender-trade-growth nexus. For female entrepreneurs and workers, international trade presents significant enhanced economic opportunity for participation. How well the increases in participation correlate with increases in economic welfare is more of an open question. Nonetheless, easier trade and better access to international markets do increase economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and workers alike. From this point of view, an environment that facilitates international trade is important. However, the ease of trading across borders is uneven across the region. Several entrepreneurs profiled in this volume claim that the number and complexity of border procedures (as well as export and import costs) constrain their ability to scale up. Figure 4.2 compares the performance of economies in the region on the time needed to clear exporting procedures and the per-container cost to send goods out to international markets. Performance on both metrics vary enormously—from global–best-practice Singapore to countries such as Lao PDR and Mongolia, where both the time and the costs required for exporting are usuriously high. In Mongolia, both the length and unpredictability of procedures are serious trade issues (World Bank 2007).

Economic Opportunities for Women in the East Asia and Pacific Region  

The East Asia and Pacific region has made great progress, relative to other regions, with regard to both economic development and, specifica...