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APEC Tackles Gender Inequality by Focusing on Care Economy, Trade and Climate

Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy Palm Springs, The United States | 26 February 2023


APEC members are redoubling their efforts in addressing and removing barriers that continue to prevent women and girls from diverse backgrounds from participating in and benefiting from the economy.

Meeting in Palm Springs from 22 to 24 February, the APEC Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy (PPWE) discussed the unequal distribution of ‘unpaid care’ and ‘domestic work’ between women and men, and examined how this affects economic and social outcomes for women, including on their workforce participation, job opportunities and the gender pay gap. Members looked at various structural reform mechanisms available to address the imbalance of unpaid care, including through gender responsive budgeting. 

“The pandemic has significantly impacted employment industries that are dominated by women, such as the care economy,” said Chantelle Stratford, chair of the group. “Within the hardest hit sectors, women are engaged in low-wage and informal employment, and they have been amongst the most severely impacted.”

“With increasing inequality for women in our region, there is an urgent need for APEC to accelerate efforts to advance gender equality and women's economic empowerment,” Stratford continued.

“APEC economies must take action to ensure women can equally and meaningfully participate in, and contribute to, thriving economies. We all want to see women succeeding and benefiting from strong, sustainable, innovative, interconnected and balanced economic growth in the region.”

A report by the APEC Policy Support Unit found that that women shoulder a significant, disproportionate burden, bearing almost three times more unpaid care and domestic work compared to men.

“On average, women in the APEC region spend 4 hours and 20 minutes daily on work not compensated by wages. This includes essential caring for children, the elderly and sick members of the family, as well as doing household chores and voluntary work within the community,” said Rhea C. Hernando, a senior researcher with the Policy Support Unit who wrote the report.  

The role trade plays in promoting gender equality and gender considerations in free trade agreements is high on the agenda. Members acknowledge the fact that women are frequently held back by a lack of resources and funding for innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as insufficient tools or knowledge, despite the evidence that shows that women-owned businesses contribute trillions of dollars to the global economy and are directly responsible for millions of jobs.

A policy dialogue on gender responsive budgeting also took place during the meeting where panelists introduced the concept as a budgetary tool that seeks to mobilize policy action targeted at progressing gender equality objectives. Panelists further shared best practices in implementing this tool and provided examples of how it benefits their respective economies.

“I stressed the importance of gender mainstreaming across APEC fora and ensuring we address and remove barriers that continue to prevent women and girls from diverse backgrounds from participating in and benefiting from the economy,” said Stratford.

“As part of gender mainstreaming, we should consider changes that could improve our own organization. As a start, we can support more women into chair roles, and more men into program director roles to achieve greater gender balance across APEC,” she concluded.

Drawing from the Bangkok Goals on the Bio-Circular Green Economy endorsed by APEC Leaders last year, economies participated in a policy dialogue on the gender-climate nexus that examined the relationship between gender inequalities and the impacts of climate change.

The United States is planning to host the APEC Women and the Economy Forum in Seattle in August this year, which will gather women and gender equality ministers, as well as economic and social development ministers and high-level representatives from the 21 APEC member economies.

For further details, please contact:

Masyitha Baziad +65 9751 2146 at [email protected]
Michael Chapnick +65 9647 4847 at [email protected]