Smart Strategies for Getting More Women into the Workforce

A study shows women who undertake vocational training are more likely to join the labor force. Photo credit: ADB.
A study shows women who undertake vocational training are more likely to join the labor force. Photo credit: ADB.

Here is what works: quotas, training, skills matching, mobility, and childcare leave policies.


Women in Asia are on average 70% less likely than men to be in the labor force. This gender gap persists despite steady economic growth, increased access to education, and the desire of most working-age women to become employed.

The current gender imbalance in the workforce in Asia and the Pacific is a misallocation of talent that limits productivity and curbs economic growth. Estimates show that the removal of gender bias in education, the labor market, and the household in a typical Asian economy would increase per capita income by 30% and aggregate income by 6% over a generation.

A recent Asian Development Bank study, Female Labor Force Participation in Asia: Key Trends, Constraints and Opportunities, examines the factors that have prevented women from entering the workplace and outlines a range of policies to reverse the trend.

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Meet the experts

  • Imrana Jalal    
    Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, ADB

    A lawyer by profession, Imrana was a Commissioner with the Fiji Human Rights Commission. She is the author of the Law for Pacific Women, architect of the Family Law Act 2005, and former Chair of the UN Committee on Harmful Practices Against Women, and continues to be a member of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Women Living Under Muslim Law, and the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development. Ms. Jalal is also a Commissioner on the International Commission of Jurists, Geneva.

  • Sakiko Tanaka    
    Senior Social Sector Specialist, Southeast Asia Department, Asian Development Bank

    Sakiko Tanaka is a Senior Social Sector Specialist at Southeast Asia Department, ADB. She is a focal officer for Vietnam social sector portfolio and working with her team on processing projects for secondary education, TVET and health. Prior to this, she worked for ADB Economic Research Department as Senior Economist working on employment diagnostics in collaboration with ILO in Cambodia, Fiji, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. She also worked at ADB Pacific Department as Social Development Specialist dealing social sector projects. She completed her PhD in Social Policy from the Graduate School of Art and Science at Colombia University NY.

   Indonesia, Pakistan, People's Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Education, Gender
   Last updated: December 2016



The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asian Development Bank, its management, its Board of Directors, or its members.

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