Underpaid and Undervalued: How Inequality Defines Women's Work in Asia

Garment workers at a workers rights training centre in Myanmar
Garment workers at a workers rights training centre in Myanmar

For women across Asia, access to decent work and a living wage represents a fundamental pathway out of poverty, and one of the best ways to counter the dangerous tide of growing economic inequality. Yet in recent decades, working people, in rich and poor countries alike, have received a smaller and smaller slice of the economic pie, while those who own capital have seen their assets grow disproportionately.

Rising economic inequality across Asia is threatening poverty reduction and slowing down the fight against gender inequality. Although the region has experienced economic growth, the bottom 70 percent have seen their income share fall while the share for the top 10 percent has increased rapidly. Low wages and a lack of rights at work, particularly for women, are at the heart of this scandal. At the same time, women are subsidizing the economy with a disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work. Achieving living wages and recognizing, redistributing and reducing unpaid care work could support both economic and gender equality in Asia and should be prioritized by both governments and businesses.

Publication Date: 
May 2016