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MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is doing relatively well in terms of a number of indicators on gender equality compared with other countries in the East Asia and the Pacific, says the World Bank in its latest report.
However, despite improvements in gender relations, domestic violence is still "unacceptably" high as up to 5.6 million Filipino women have been abused by their partners, according to one of the authors of the report.
The report entitled “Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific,” studied gender gaps in the area of economic opportunities, influence in home and society, and access to human capital and productive assets across the region.
Andrew Mason, lead author of the study, said that women in the Philippines are doing specially good in terms of enrollment in school where there is a significant difference in the number of male and female students in the secondary and tertiary levels.
“I think at the secondary level there are 108 girls for every 100 boys and it’s even more tilted in the direction of women at the tertiary level -- it’s about 125 girls for every 100 boys," said Mason told InterAksyon.com in a recent interview.
Mason says the same trend in the miiddle-income countries in the region where a reversal in the "gender gap in favor of boys to a small gender gap in favor of girls" has been observed in the last two decades.
However, despite being more educated than their male counterparts, Filipino women earn less than working men. This even if there are more unemployed men than women in the country.
Latest data from the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics show that unemployed men make up more than three-fifths of the total 2.8 million without jobs in the Philippines. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Office said that as of October last year, 67.6 percent of the total underemployed Filipinos were men while 32.4 percent were women.
“In the region as a whole we see that women earn about 70 to 80 cents for every dollar that men earn and the Philippines is right in that same range – 76 (cents). In that sense there’s no wage equality or earnings equality, but the Philippines is not dramatically worse or dramatically better than (others),” said Mason.
Progress in health
The World Bank report also observed that the Philippines has made progress in the area of health with the country’s fertility rate and infant and child mortality declining over the years.
“We see infant and child mortality has gone down dramatically for both boys and for girls. In fact in the Philippines the under five mortality has halved for both boys and girls since 1990,” Mason said.
In addition, there are also more women now who give birth attended by skilled birth professionals. “Not a perfect performance but a lot of good news that we can talk about in terms of health,” said Mason.
Empowered within the home
In terms of influence at home and in society, Southeast Asian women in general and Filipino women in particular seem to be empowered within the home.
“Southeast Asian women have a high level of autonomy with respect to their cash earnings. Either the wife makes a decision or it’s jointly made. So only in a very, very small share of cases in the Philippines does the husband actually dictate what the wife does with her money,” said Mason.
The Philippines also does better with the rest of the world when women’s involvement in politics is to be measured, according to the study, which is a companion to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report. Between 22 to 23 percent of legislators in the country are women while the world average is 19 percent. In the East Asia and Pacific region, the average is 18 percent.
“It’s low in absolute terms. It’s not even 50 but it’s higher than the global average by a few percentage points,” said Mason.
Domestic violence problem persists
However, Mason said that while domestic violence in the country is low compared to countries making up the Pacific region, it is still “unacceptably” high if put in actual numbers.
Two-thirds of adult women in the Pacific region have experienced violence in the hands of a partner. In the Philippines, around 18-19 percent of women reported domestic violence.
“If you look in the scale of the region, it’s on the relatively low side. But it’s still, I would say, unacceptably high. If you convert this percentage into numbers of (Filipino) women this means about 5.5- 5.6 million adult women have experienced domestic violence at the hands of a partner. So there’s good news and bad news hidden in this statistics,” he said.