Part two of a multi-part series done on the ranking of Asian countries in the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index Report 2013.
The Philippines Overall Rank: 5th
One of the bigger surprises in the 2013 Gender Gap Index was the Philippines ranking 5th overall. In terms of charity, Give2Asia’s major focus in the Philippines has been for improvements in education, human rights and human trafficking issues, and especially recently, disaster recovery. That being said, the Philippines ranked highest amongst all 23 countries Give2Asia works in – scoring high across The World Economic Forum’s set of criterion used to measure gender disparities, with the one exception of labor force participation (101st).
So how does a country that has a 26.5% poverty rate, ongoing and violent challenges to social stability, and a history of dealing with massive and disruptive natural disasters, be ranked one of the top 5 gender-equitable countries on Earth?
One obvious reason by comparison for other Asian countries is a strong central government that is actively promoting social programs. One such program, the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program pushes specifically for higher gender equality in basic education. This has in turn fueled a boom in the number of women in the workplace. In 2011, the labor force participation rate for women was 50.4% and while men’s participation rate was 79%. However, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board of the Philippines, the employment rate for women (93.3%) is actually now higher than men’s (92.7%). Today, the unemployment rate in the Philippines is lower for women (6.7%) than for men (7.3%) and there are significantly more women professionals (68.3%) than men (31.7%). Of all government officials, managers, corporate executives and managers, 52.1% are women, compared to their male counterparts who only constitute 47.9%.
Even more impressive is that those numbers are actually rising still, despite challenges.
When asked what she thought the major barriers to achieving gender equality in the Philippines, Alexie Ferreria-Mercado, Give2Asia’s local advisor, felt the greatest challenge was both cultural and structural, rather than economic.
“The Philippines generally gives equal opportunities to both men and women, and typically, the barriers to achieving gender equality is cultural and structural with the women recognized as primary caregivers of the family, and often they give up work opportunities and/or career advancement in favor of growing a family and taking care of the household,” she explained. At the same time, she continued, “(there are) more progressive companies that recognize the need for work life balance, offering telecommuting options, especially for women.
In this sense, the combination of a strong centralized government and the aging cultural norms places the Philippines in a category with some of the best WEF-ranked countries in the world. At the same time, stability remains a major problem for the Philippines. In the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda, the strength and focus of the centralized government will almost certainly be taxed, bringing into question the country’s ability to push for continued progress in the area of women’s empowerment.