While countries all over the world are striving to minimise the gender gap in work force, ASEAN countries will have more women participation in income generation by 2025.

The statistics are clear – in 2015, only 32.5 percent of females were pursuing higher education whereas in 2025, this number will swell up to 51.5 percent. Higher level of education ultimately opens door for participation at senior levels in jobs. And this is how ASEAN countries, from 15.9 percent in 2015, to 23.2 percent of females in 2025 will contribute to professional and technical positions in the job market in the next decade.

More women will lead, even in manufacturing

Female participation will increase slightly in manufacturing compared to their male counterparts, conventionally a male-dominated sector, from 18.7 percent in 2015 to 21.6 in 2025. Despite being traditionally male-dominated industries, females are expected to participate more because of education. The numbers will almost stay put in the sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and services for males.

While academia and job market will see significant transformation, the legislative body will also be work place for the increasing number of educated women. Parliaments will see a rise in women participants and leaders. While the increase is not as significant as in education or in other jobs, the expected growth of a valuable 1.8 percent – from 20.4 percent in 2015 to 22.2 percent in 2025 – speaks volumes to the public and the world.

Having more women in the leadership positions will ensure further boost to the overall participation of women.

Philippines at the top

Regionally, ASEAN’s vow to be gender inclusive might be realised in different times. Individual country members, Philippines for example, is already way ahead and is setting a bar for its neighbours.

It currently ranks ninth in equality in economic participation and opportunity globally. It ranks second in female ability to rise to positions of leadership. In fact, it has highest percentage of firms with female participation in ownership, around 69 percent. Rest of the ASEAN nations, like Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia can take a leaf out of Philippines’ policies to maintain equal labor participation.

Room for improvement

But this number can further rise if ASEAN pushes the progress in a more determined way.

It can also consider the controversies following companies like Google and Uber regarding their treatment of female employees and work towards avoiding such incidents.

This can be enforced by making women-friendly policies and programs, steps that will encourage them to join the task of nation building.

Until that time comes, ASEAN women might still have to face the brunt of the age-old gender stereotype. While considerable change is being seen, it is a paramount task to completely change the way the society views women when it comes to their role as a bread-winner.

Having said that, a good thing is that ASEAN isn’t far behind Nordic countries like Iceland, Finland, and Norway when it comes to female empowerment. It has already taken an important step by striving for equality of labor participation and it’ll be interesting to see how they carry out their plan in the coming days.


Sachi Mulmi is a researcher with Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at sachi.mulmi@frost.com


Sapan Agarwal drives content and marketing for Frost & Sullivan. Sapan is based out of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and can be reached at sapan.agarwal@frost.com | +603 6204 5830