E. Asia making little progress in gender equality

BANGKOK, July 13 Kyodo

No country in East Asia has made progress in achieving gender equality in education, political participation and economic rights since the mid-1980s, the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) said in a report released Thursday.

The biennial report said eight out of 13 countries in the region, excluding Japan, have not yet achieved equal enrollment for girls and boys in secondary education.

Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia are lagging behind most of the countries in the East Asian region, the report said.

Only 53% of girls in Myanmar, 52.9% in Laos, 46.9% in Thailand and 30.9% in Cambodia have the chance to go on to higher education after finishing compulsory courses due to poverty, said the report called “Progress of the World’s Women 2000.”

However, it said 99% of women in South Korea, 78.5% in the Philippines and 74.8% in Singapore could enjoy higher education.

No country in the region has achieved the internationally agreed target of at least 30% of seats in parliament to be held by women, it said.

“The largest increase (in share of parliamentary seats) between the mid-80s and the mid-90s was in Vietnam, while Thailand was one of the poorer performers in the same period,” the report said.

As of January this year, only communist-ruled states allow active female participation in politics, judged by share of seats in the parliament they occupy.

The top rank is held by Vietnam, where women hold 26% of total seats in the National Assembly, followed by China with 21.8%, Laos with 21.2% and North Korea with 20.1%.

By contrast, women in so-called liberal countries such as Thailand hold only 6.6% of parliamentary seats, in Singapore 4.3% and South Korea 3.7%.

“The communist countries have mechanisms to promote women in parliament but we have to consider democratization and quality,” said Diane Elson, coordinator of the report.

The report said Mongolia posted the largest decline in the number of women parliamentarians, from 17% in 1980s to 7.9% during the current year.

Economically, there have been some achievements in paid employment. Thailand has one of the highest female participation rates in the region, with 45% of all people in paid employment being women. Malaysia has the lowest rate, with only 36%.

The report said the proportion of unpaid work between male and female workers in Singapore is 1:2, Malaysia 3:14, the Philippines 9:18 and Indonesia 9:34.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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