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ASEAN women: work hard, earn less?

Written by Mohamed P.Hassan

Organizations and companies tend to give salaries based on demand. When it comes to women, they do not demand for more raises, bonuses or a wide range of extra perks etc. That has led to women earning as much as 30% less than men in certain positions. Although some women chose to care more for the family, those who get regular jobs have to be judged fairly based on merit. Women have to base remunerations on what their worth is to their respective companies ,independent of any sort of bias or manipulation.

The number of women who participate in the workforce has grown exponentially in ASEAN. In Malaysia, women comprise of 40% of the total workforce, 42% in Singapore, 47% in Thailand, 54% in Indonesia, 55% in the Philippines and 58% in Brunei, with the highest percentage of women in the workforce being in Vietnam standing at 60%. This 60% figure accounts for 72% of the female population in Vietnam. However, most of these percentages are fair enough compared to the women’s percentage represented in the population of these countries. As one would expect; most of these women are under paid. In some extreme cases that can be traced to Cambodia, only 6% of the women are paid at all.

According to Sallie K., an influencer on LinkedIn, women in the workforce tend to earn 30% less than their male colleagues. Sallie mentions during her years in management, her male sub-ordinates used to wonder into her office to ask for raises and state how much they deserve, while she adds; “I never had a woman initiate a similar conversation.”

It could look more interesting for ASEAN, when the percentage of women in the workforce is measured against their population in the ASEAN countries. Efforts to counter the perception and image of a working woman have been put forward in different ways, however, one distinctly stands out from the rest. That is efforts made by LeanIn.org and Getty Images. According to a recent article in the New York Times, these two stock image libraries have announced their partnership to highlight and better “represent women”. The collection currently is automated through the tag “leanincollection” with 2,764 current search results.

One of the core values of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is “Building a Community of Caring Societies,” under which it is stated:

Promoting equitable participation of women in the development process by eliminating all forms of discrimination against them.

This core value has to be ingrained into the very fabric of society, to reflect on a woman’s payslip. The bottom line being people who chose to work have to be paid equally regardless of their sex, race, color, religion, national origin, etc. The “fair ASEAN” core value mentioned above, can have a profound impact on equal employment rights for women in Southeast Asia. This could also give Southeast Asia an opportunity to lead the Asian development map for women’s equal employment rights if implemented with success.

–Edited by R.M

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