APEC vows to improve women's economic empowerment

Wellington, Sep 25 (IANS): Ministers and officials in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) region have renewed their commitment towards gender equality and women's economic empowerment in creating conditions that will drive inclusive, effective and enduring economic growth after the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.

Addressing the significant and disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls, ministers, officials and business leaders pledged to implement policies that will improve women's access to capital and markets, strengthen women's labour force participation, increase access to leadership positions and support women's education, training and skills development, Xinhua news agency reported.

Leading the discussion at the 2021 APEC Women and the Economy Forum, which was held virtually on Friday night, New Zealand Minister for Women Jan Tinetti called attention to how the pandemic has driven many women out of the workforce and negatively affected their well-being.

"We know that much of the essential work has been carried out by women, and that they have been crucial to our Covid response as scientists, healthcare professionals, educators and other essential workers," Tinetti said.

"We also know that women often carry out significant unpaid care responsibilities."

According to the updated APEC Women and the Economy Dashboard, the shift to digital technologies during the pandemic has increased the burden of employed women who are working from home to shoulder the bulk of domestic tasks and care work.

Tinetti urged member economies to join together and take bold, collective actions to minimize the risk of Covid-19, which has set back years of hard-won progress.

"The current challenges present officials with a great opportunity to reset, change the status quo and enable women and girls to fulfil their potential, for the benefit of all," added Tinetti, who chaired the forum on Friday.

"We know our economies stand to gain substantially from achieving our goals for women and girls, including by creating the conditions for greater productivity, prosperity, innovation and improved quality of life."

Member economies have agreed to carry out policies that enable and promote women's participation in the formal economy by addressing gender-based pay gaps and occupational segregation as well as tackling discriminatory legal and regulatory barriers for women entrepreneurs and women-led small businesses.

Ministers also pledged to promote work-life balance and equal sharing of unpaid domestic work and care by exploring measures that expand affordable and accessible child and elder care facilities and access to social protection systems.

"The decisions and responses that we make now can lay the foundation for a stronger future for women and girls, and a more resilient, inclusive economy," Tinetti noted.

She highlighted that while achieving equality is no easy task, gender-responsive policies and approaches are critical for effective, inclusive and sustainable growth, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

"Together, we can seize the opportunity before us to address long-standing structural barriers to women's full and meaningful participation in the economy," the Minister concluded.



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