By Victor V. Saulon
AN EQUAL CHANCE for Filipino women in the workplace and in society could translate into a 7% increase in the country’s economic growth or $40 billion a year by 2025, said a new study that ranked the Philippines as the region’s leader in gender equality in work.
In Asia-Pacific, advancing women’s equality could add $4.5 trillion a year to the regional economy, a 12% rise over a business-as-usual gross domestic product (GDP) scenario.
These are among the findings of McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the research arm of McKinsey & Co., in its report “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Asia Pacific” released on Friday.
“On gender equality in work, the Philippines stands out for its progress,” the report said, citing the government’s pro-active legislation to close gender gaps in a society that is traditionally matriarchal and egalitarian.
Based on the Gender Parity Score calculated by MGI for all Asia Pacific countries, the Philippines has low gender inequality on six out of the 15 indicators, but “high” or “extremely high” inequality on four.
In calculating the GPS, MGI identified five gender equality indicators in work, namely: labor-force participation rate; professional and technical jobs; perceived wage gap for similar work; leadership positions; and unpaid care work.
The Philippines scored a GPS of 0.73 on gender equality in work, the best in Asia-Pacific, and outperformed the regional average of 0.44.
The MGI report said the country is also the region’s best performer on women’s participation in professional and technical jobs, and in leadership positions.
The Philippines has achieved a female-to-male ratio of close to 1.00 in leadership positions, making the country stand out in a region with low level of women in this indicator.
On gender equality in society, the Philippines is in line with the regional GPS average on essential services and enablers of economic opportunity and on physical security and autonomy, but is above average on legal protection and political voice.
Looking at individual indicators, the Philippines is in line with the best in Asia-Pacific on education and financial inclusion, and near best in the region on sex ratio at birth and child marriage.
Within the Philippines, regional variations on gender inequality exist, which partly reflect a decentralized policy. But overall, this means that the Philippines is relatively advanced in its progress towards parity on the global stage, the MGI study said.
The study further said the largest variation in the country’s regions is in leadership positions, followed by unmet need for family planning and maternal mortality.
There is gender parity on literacy rates and educational attainment, which the study said helps to explain why there is also uniformity across the Philippines on labor-force participation, women’s representation in professional and technical jobs, and violence against women.
“The Philippines has already made significant advances towards gender parity and has established a solid foundation on which to build further progress,” McKinsey & Company Managing Partner for the Philippines Kristine Romano was quoted as saying in a statement.
“The next challenge is to support lower-income women to make the most of their economic potential, pursue careers that will earn them higher wages, and give them the support and flexibility they need,” she added.
In all, the MGI research said there is scope for improvement for the Philippines.
“The experience of women in the Philippines still depends largely on their socioeconomic status. Lower-income women still confront considerable gender gaps and less opportunity,” it said.
For educated women, there is scope for higher representation and equal pay in professional and technical fields, which is already a strength. Another priority is to increase women’s access to finance.
The MGI research said increasing women’s participation in the labor force accounts for 58% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) potential. Raising women’s representation in higher-productivity sectors makes up 42%, it added.
“The Philippines has an opportunity to build on its strengths in women’s representation in professional and technical jobs, and in business leadership,” it said.
The study identified six priority areas that the government and companies should consider measures to advance women’s equality.
These are: increase access to, and equal provision of, family-friendly policies in the workplace; introduce policies and programs to improve gender balance in male-dominated industries; strengthen economic incentives for women to remain in the workplace; reduce barriers to labor-force participation for young mothers and single parents; use financial products and services to increase economic empowerment for less-educated women; and accelerate implementation of programs to improve maternal health in rural and isolated areas.
By Victor V. Saulon