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East Asia Pacific makes progress on gender equality, challenges remain: World Bank

(Xinhua)

16:32, March 19, 2012

SYDNEY, March 19 (Xinhua) -- A new World Bank report shows improvements in gender equality have been made across East Asia and Pacific, but disparities still exist in a number of important areas.

The East Asia Pacific Gender Companion to the World Development Report (WDR) 2012 on Gender Equality and Development says that improving women's access to jobs and economic opportunity could significantly boost productivity in the region.

"Eliminating inequality of opportunity in economic participation could increase worker productivity in the region by 7 to 18 percent. This has large implications for economic growth and poverty reduction. So, women's economic empowerment is not only the right thing to do, but it's the smart thing to do," noted Pamela Cox, the World Bank' East Asia Pacific Vice President.

The report, which is supported by AusAID, is being released by a team of World Bank gender experts in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Fiji. They are speaking with policy makers, civil society, and opinion leaders on the gender agenda and discussing policy options to promote gender equality and more inclusive and effective development.

"The World Bank is committed to supporting countries in addressing the constraints that women face in gaining access to economic opportunity, either related to strengthening their marketable skills, improving their access to land and capital or increasing their voice and influence in society," says Pamela Cox.

The regional report states that promoting gender equality in economic opportunities and in voice in society promotes better development outcomes, including higher productivity, increased growth and faster poverty reduction. Although female labor force participation is generally high in East Asia and the Pacific compared to other developing regions, progress has been uneven.

"The East Asia and Pacific region is vast and diverse, with large differences in economic and social progress, including toward gender equality. In some ways, women in the region are better positioned today than ever before to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from development, but much more needs to be done," said Andrew Mason, lead author of the East Asia Pacific Companion Volume.

"Women in the Pacific still face significant barriers to access to economic opportunity and encounter considerable challenges with respect to having voice and influence in society; the Pacific has the lowest share of women in parliament compared to any other region. And, the prevalence of gender-based violence remains high. "

The report recommends that policymakers should address gender gaps in income, but they also should focus on other stubborn gender gaps, for example in voice and influence in society, to ensure the greatest payoffs from policy changes.



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