A multitude of factors affect women’s social inclusion and economic engagement, including:

· Access to capital and labour markets

· Allocation of resources to enhance education, health and social outcomes

· Regulatory policy and sociocultural barriers that discriminate against women

While some countries in the region have demonstrated strong performance or achieved marked improvements across a range of these areas, there remain policy gaps and structural barriers that impede women’s social and economic participation.

The Asia Pacific Women thought leadership series brings focus to the status of women in the Asia-Pacific region through expert commentary on the five priority thematic areas relevant to women’s social inclusion and economic engagement in several aspects of life. As identified in the 2019 APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard, these priority areas are:

  1. Access to capital and assets: women’s rights to property and inheritance; access to credit; barriers to financial inclusion.
  2. Access to markets: gender discrimination in the workplace; vulnerability in employment practices.
  3. Skills, capacity-building and health: literacy rates, access to education (vocational/ tertiary) and health services as well as prevalence of health constraints. 
  4. Leadership, voice and agency: employment opportunities; career advancement; parental leave; wage gaps; structural barriers that limit women’s economic participation across a range of sectors.
  5. Innovation and technology: access to internet and mobile phone technology; technology to increase women’s economic participation.

As our authors highlight, many of these priority areas are being compounded by the concurrent global health and economic crises. The Covid-19 pandemic is also playing out again the backdrop of an escalating climate crisis, an unsustainable model of development and growing levels of socio-economic inequality. Consequently, the pandemic is producing gender-differentiated impacts and disproportionately affecting women in the Asia-Pacific region.

Over the coming weeks our authors will interrogate the status of women in the region with reference to their barriers to financial inclusion; gender discrimination in the workplace; health constraints; career advancement and access to technology. We look forward to sharing experiences and insights from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Taiwan and Vanuatu.

Through this series we aim to contribute additional Asia Pacific perspectives to the conversations had via the Women of the World (WOW) virtual festival held 27-28 June 2020.