We, ministers and representatives from APEC economies, along with private sector leaders, met in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, 8 September 2013 for the High Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy, under the Chairmanship of Mrs. Linda Amalia, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection of the Republic of Indonesia. The Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), and the ASEAN Secretariat also attended.
We reaffirmed the crucial role of women in achieving economic prosperity and inclusive growth in the APEC region. We appreciate the initiative of Indonesia in hosting the Joint Ministerial Meeting responsible for Small and Medium Enterprise and Women Empowerment. This meeting highlighted synergies between APEC’s activities in SME development and women’s economic empowerment and encouraged continued collaboration. We commend the Joint Ministerial Statement on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Women.
We welcomed ABAC’s report entitled ‘Economic Empowerment and Inclusion of Women in APEC Economies’ which sends a strong signal from the business community that the economic inclusion of women is critical for business performance and economic prosperity. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership with ABAC in our joint pursuit of women’s economic empowerment.
We welcomed the accomplishments by member economies to advance our previous commitments, such as: the Conference on Innovation and ICT; Access to Capital Workshop: Developing Financial Products to Support Women-owned Businesses; research report on ‘Access to Trade and Growth of Women’s SMEs in APEC Developing Economies’; the Women and Transportation Forum on the margins of the APEC Transportation Ministerial; and the Seminar on the Dynamics of SME: Informality and Women Entrepreneurship.
We encouraged economies to take concrete actions, implement gender-responsive policies and programs, and introduce, improve and implement laws and regulations to expand economic opportunities and leadership for women in APEC economies. We welcomed the work of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE), including how to strengthen the gender assessment of APEC projects.
We welcomed the actions reported by economies that aim to realize the full potential of women as economic drivers. We encourage further cooperation between economies, and private and public sectors, to share best practice and enhance regional cooperation, including in the areas of women’s access to capital, access to markets, capacity and skills building, women’s leadership and the innovative economy.
Recognizing the crosscutting nature of women’s participation in the economy, we will promote efforts to integrate gender considerations across the breadth of our joint activities in APEC as a priority.
We look forward to the finalization of the strategic plan to guide the work of the Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy. As the basis of our discussions here in Bali, we considered the following specific efforts:
We recommend greater collaboration to remove obstacles that currently restrict women from realizing their full economic potential. It is important for governments to promote effective and fiscally sustainable social safety net programs and to encourage or incentivize the private sector to invest in the empowerment of women throughout their business operations, supply chains, senior management and decision-making roles, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. In this regard, we welcome the outcome of the 2012 APEC Workshop: Access to Markets – Including Women Entrepreneurs in Government Procurement Processes held on 5-7 November 2012 in Mexico.
We are committed to support women in the economies through structural reform measures, and encourage economies to:
- Collect and analyze sex-disaggregated data on micro enterprises and SMEs to inform policy and program development.
- Identify and address legislation, regulations and measures that discriminate against or disadvantage women related to business operations, access to markets, ownership of assets, access to capital, and social protection.
- Identify and promote information sources on technical resources and best practice for APEC economies stakeholders to further advance women’s full economic participation.
- Mentor and develop the capacity of women business owners to grow and access new markets, and equip large public and private sector organizations to source from women suppliers.
Women and ICT
Information and communication technology (ICT) is a sector that provides significant economic growth potential for the APEC region. As it relates to women in ICTs, there are three main areas where the APEC region could focus its efforts. First, develop policies, programs and structural reforms that close the gender technology divide. Second, ensure that women have effective access to and knowledge of how to use ICT tools to further economic opportunities and start and grow their businesses. Third, focus on women’s ability to access and rise in ICT jobs and opportunities.
Women-owned and operated SMEs have significant potential and provide an important contribution to the APEC region’s economic growth. Within the frame of global economic development, these SMEs should take further steps to improve their competitiveness, including through the use of ICTs. This accelerates business transformation through speedy, accurate, and effective exchange of information. Experience indicates that ICT supports women’s empowerment in several fields, such as education, health and business innovation. However, women-owned and operated SMEs face additional challenges in accessing ICTs, such as in infrastructure and training. As such, APEC economies could develop policies and strategies to improve the environment that engages women in the rapidly evolving ICT sphere.
In 2012, the APEC Telecommunication and Information Ministerial Declaration recognized that ICT skills and training provide the foundation for human resource development and sustainable growth in ICT in the APEC region, and encouraged new initiatives to improve ICT skills and to provide training programs. Research shows that women and girls still experience greater challenges and barriers in accessing ICTs.
Considering these challenges, we encourage economies to:
- Promote ICT skills and capacity building for women and girls.
- Identify and encourage legislation, regulations, measures and facilities that increase women’s and girls’ access to ICT tools and services to minimize the ICT gender gap. For example, include gender strategies in broadband network plans.
- Promote initiatives that use ICTs to overcome women’s time and mobility constraints, increase access to markets, networks and information for women-owned and operated SMEs, and strengthen women’s access to financial services.
Infrastructure and Human Capital
The full and equal labour force participation of women is one of the strongest tools economies have to enhance economic and social development. More than 60 percent of women in the APEC economies are part of the formal workforce. To make the most of this human capital and productivity, the barriers women face need to be lowered, for example, by improving access to training and fostering flexible workplace policies that enable women to better balance work and family responsibilities
Access to infrastructure that meets the needs of women and men such as clean water, housing, sanitation, electricity, transport and communication networks should be prioritized as lack of this infrastructure poses serious problems for some economies across the APEC region. Other challenges faced by women entrepreneurs are, among others, access to information technology, training, land and property. The lack of access to land and property, for instance, creates a significant barrier to accessing credit. In addition, persistent barriers in access to information and training hinders women from enhancing their capacities and businesses.
Considering these challenges we encourage economies to:
- Share best practices and address concerns on infrastructure and workplace conditions to meet the needs of both women and men, and that enables women to participate fully and equally in the economy.
- Build capacity promoting access to market-oriented training, education, mentoring and market information for women, in particular young women, to increase their ability to start and expand their own businesses.
- Examine and promote laws, training programs, workplace codes of conduct and social infrastructure to encourage the availability of parental leaves, maternity protection measures, and childcare.
- Promote a mindset for employers to recognize the benefits of the re-entry of mothers into the labour force.
- Encourage public and private sectors to increase the female representation on boards, and in senior management position and leadership, and to publicize results.
- Identify and remove legal and regulatory barriers to women’s property and asset ownership and ability to sign contracts.
In future, we look forward to further actions by APEC economies to foster women’s economic progress for the benefit of all our societies.