Women still struggling in labour market in Asia Pacific, says OECD


31/10/2014 - Gains in education have helped narrow the gender gap in the labour market in Asia Pacific but many challenges remain, according to a new OECD report.


Society at a Glance : Asia Pacific 2014 says that educational attainment and participation among women continue to improve in the region and have helped drive economic growth. But women are still more likely to earn less than men and in insecure jobs, less likely to advance in their career and do more unpaid work.


Although there is large variation across the Asia Pacific region, countries like Japan, Korea and Singapore are top-performers in the OECD PISA assessment. But gender stereotypes are nurtured at early stage of life, and so far fewer girls pursue science and engineering degrees.


This trend also translates into employment. A large gender gap can be still found in areas of entrepreneurship, labour force participation, salary, and the share of part-time employment. To tackle this situation, the OECD says that governments have an important role to play by acting as a role model in advancing equality of opportunity: in many countries, the share of women in parliament increased from 2005 to 2012. 



Share of women in parliament, 2012 and 2005

Society at a Glance Asia Pacific illustration for the press release

Click here to download the data



Demographic Challenges

In 2014, the dependency ratio of Japan is 77% (100 working-age people to take care of 77 non-working-age people), underlining the reality of “the oldest society”. With decreasing birth rate and rising life-expectancy, the rest of Asia Pacific, especially China and Korea, will share the same level of challenges by 2050. Labour supply and care issues will become more prominent. Japan and Korea traditionally received little immigration, and thus the challenges have to be met with effective structural reforms that encourage unused talent, women, to work. Efforts are also needed to introduce paid maternity leave, parental leave and childcare support but such reforms only work when workplace cultures change so that both mothers and fathers combine work and family responsibilities.



Labour force projections, selected countries, 2012-40

Projected number of persons aged 15-64 in the labour force, thousands

Click here to download the data



Social Protection

The report shows that there is a trend towards more equal access to social protection arrangements globally: in 1990, 80% of the world’s social protection expenditure was concentrated in 20% of world population, while 20 years later, it is more diversified to cover 40%, with the share spent by Asian economies increasing from 2.7% to 9.6% over that period). Public social spending has increased especially in the Asia/Pacific region, and Japan now comes top, at just over 22% of GDP in 2010 among the countries with available data, impacted by the financial crisis.



Public social protection expenditure as a % of GDP ()

Public social protection expenditure as a % of GDP

Click here to download the data



This third edition of Society at a Glance: Asia/Pacific includes comparative data for 35 economies in a variety of social issues, with some useful indicators on self-sufficiency, equity, health, and social cohesion. The report includes a special chapter on gender equality.


For more information, visit


Journalists may contact OECD Media Division (tel +33 145 24 9700) or OECD Tokyo Centre (+81 3 5532 0021,