There is little doubt that economic empowerment of women is crucial for competitiveness and prosperity. Higher earnings for women means more money in the local economy, creating a more stable economic environment and stronger communities.
Yet, according to a recent report by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, although legal and regulatory barriers to women’s economic inclusion have decreased over the past 50 years globally, too many laws still hinder women’s participation in the formal economy. Ninety percent of the 143 economies surveyed had one or more legal barriers that hinder women's ability to work and open businesses.
Many of the most restrictive—and costly-- laws preventing women’s economic engagement can be found in South Asia. Last year, the United Nations estimated that women’s full participation in the workforce could potentially add up to $89 billion annually to Asia-Pacific economies.
Last year, the United Nations estimated that women’s full participation in the workforce could potentially add up to
$89 billion annually to Asia-Pacific economies."
The recently convened Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, Women and the Economy Forum ended with a high-level policy dialogue that urged member governments to encourage the private sector to invest in the empowerment of women throughout their business operations; to develop programs and structural reforms that close the gender technology divide; and to create flexible workplace policies that enable women to better balance work and family responsibilities.
“There is an acknowledgement that women are drivers of these economies and that it is incredibly important not to leave women behind,” said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Catherine Russell:
“There is a sense that the economies of countries like Russia, China, Philippines-- could grow as much as fourteen percent with women as active members of these economies. So I think there is a real acknowledgement that women are critical here and everybody, I think, is looking for ways to make sure that the barriers that keep women out of the economy and limit their participation in the economy are knocked down that women have help in overcoming those barriers.”
The United States along with the other twenty APEC member economies recognize the untapped talent of women within the region’s economy. We are working to establish programs and policies that promote women’s economic empowerment, and creating stronger economies in the future.