APEC economies progressed efforts to overcome structural barriers that prevent women and girls from diverse backgrounds from benefiting fully and equally from economic growth.
Meeting in Seattle on Friday, members agreed to intensify their efforts to remove those barriers, and to close those gaps to rebalance men’s and women’s contribution to the care economy (both paid and unpaid), advance gender equality through budgeting practices, as well as mainstream gender in trade and investment.
“Gender equality makes economic sense and it's just the right thing to do,” said Chantelle Stratford, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy. “As the driver of global growth in the 21st century, the Asia-Pacific is well placed to lead on women’s economic empowerment.”
“More importantly, when space is made for women to succeed, they fill it, and they create additional space for others,” Stratford added as she opened the group’s meeting. “We all benefit from gender equality. It is not a nice to have, divorced from social or economic prosperity.”
The APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy’s second meeting in Seattle advanced the 2023 APEC theme of “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All” by prioritizing discussions on structural reform and the care economy. Economies exchanged their efforts to carry forward the group’s priorities including gender and climate; micro, small and medium enterprises; global value chains; digital inclusion; and e-commerce.
During the group’s meeting, economies heard from the private sector, represented by APEC Business Advisory Council member Gabby Costigan, who reiterated the importance of redoubling APEC’s efforts to improve women and girls’ representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Costigan stressed that the lack of adequate data to capture women in STEM fields has limited the ability of policymakers and business to monitor developments, identify gaps and address barriers.
Members also heard from international organization representatives and academia on how to strengthen the link between budgeting and key gender objectives, how to employ fiscal policy and public financial management tools to promote gender equality as well as how to bring a gender perspective to law-making.
Delegates also discussed how to develop a conducive policy environment that recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work, this includes maternity protection, paid leave for fathers and other carers, early childhood care and education services as well as long-term care services.
“It is clear that undervaluing the participation and contribution of women costs economies billions in lost revenue,” said Stratford. “We also know that the more women employed in trade-related activities, the better on average their working conditions, remuneration and work-place opportunities are.”
APEC has made positive progress to implement the La Serena Roadmap for Women and Inclusive Growth to propel women’s economic empowerment in the region. Member economies were encouraged to further lift their ambition and accelerate efforts to improve gender analyses, and monitoring and evaluation measures across initiatives to ensure they deliver concrete outcomes for women and girls.
Stratford noted that the actions taken by many economies in pursuit of achieving gender equality is positive, however, to close the gender gap and to meaningfully address barriers to women’s empowerment, APEC must strengthen its commitments to creating a better life for women and girls.
“APEC has a real opportunity to show regional leadership by applying a gender perspective to the ‘three pillars’ of APEC–trade and investment liberalisation, business facilitation, and economic and technical cooperation,” Stratford said. “This will surface structural and systemic inequalities and focus our efforts on ensuring women can seize the benefits of this transformation.”
“When women participate equally in society—when they are economically, politically and socially empowered—we see communities, families, and societies thrive and economies are more sustainable, productive and resilient,” she concluded.
Peru will be hosting the next meeting of the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy, as well as the APEC Women and the Economy Forum in 2024.
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