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MANILA - As with their East Asia and Pacific neighbors, Filipino women on average are paid only 76 percent of what men earn, a new World Bank report on gender equality in the region says.
The report, "Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific", observed that while gender equlity across the region has improved tremendously, disparities stll exist in many areas, as in economic matters.
It also said that women in the Philippines and the rest of the region are more likely to work in small firms, to work in the informal sector, and to be concentrated in lower-paid occupations and sectors.
Increasing productivity through gender equality
The report suggested that improving women's access to jobs and economic opportunity could boost worker productivity in the Philippines and the rest of the East Asia and the Pacific Region by as much as 18 percent.
"When resources are allocated on the basis of skills and abilities rather than gender, there will be higher productivity that benefits men and women alike," said World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi. "Healthier, better educated mothers have healthier, better educated children so if we can make the right decisions and allocate the right resource now, we are also investing in the next generation of Filipinos."
Noting the "large differences" in economic and social progress as well as gender equality in the region, the report's lead author said women in East Asia and the Pacific 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, WB lead economist who discussed the findings of the study with civil society groups, representatives of government agencies, and the private sector. "Eliminating inequality of opportunity in economic participation could increase worker productivity in the region by 7 to 18 percent."
How Filipino women fare
The report said that the Philippines has gone a long way in enhancing women's voice both in the home and society.
It noted that Filipino women have high levels of autonomy, as reflected in control of their own savings, and have the ability to make decisions on matters like health care and household purchases. Moreover, more Filipino women are going up the corporate ladder, getting elected, or being appointed to public office.
Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman, for her part, acknowledged the lingering disparity between Filipino men and women.
"It is precisely because of these hard truths that we are called upon to be more proactive in creating gender-sensitive policies and implementing them well in the country and the region," she said in her keynote address at the presentation of the report.
Soliman said the Philippines already has the basic laws and rules that encourage and support women’s contribution to development, including the Women in Development and Nation Building Act (RA 7192) the Magna Carta for Women, which calls for gender-responsive development.
She added that gender-sensitive policies are already in place in government’s major poverty reduction programs including Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, a conditional cash transfer program that provides subsidies to poor families for letting their children stay in school and have pregnant women and children get regular health checkups.
“This shows just how we are serious in protecting and promoting gender equality,” Soliman said.
Other priority areas of improvement
Aside from higher productivity, promoting gender equality results in increased growth and faster poverty reduction, the report said.
Drawing on an improved database that is also part of the report, it identified four priority areas for public action:
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