Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Face of poverty in Asia is female

A new report from the United Nations was unveiled yesterday that describes the development process of Asia. It says that many economies in Asia have been able to cut poverty in half to meetMillennium Development Goal number 1 by 2015. The report points out that the progress has been uneven, often leaving women behind.

from the IPS, writer Diana G. Mendoza attended the report's unveiling.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Report 2009/10, titled, "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in an Era of Global Uncertainty," said "most countries across Southeast Asia have reduced extreme poverty by half, but the other half has a woman’s face."

Across the region, some countries have managed to cope with multiple threats of economic crisis, health shocks and pandemics, and natural disasters, but most are still hurting from the impact of these crises and have yet to cope with the little time left to realise the development goals they pledged to achieve by 2015, the report added.

Among vulnerable populations in the region, women are among those likely to be hurt most by the impact of the crisis on poverty in the region. According to the report, this sector constitutes the majority of Asia’s low- skilled, low-salaried and temporary workers – part of the flexible workforce that can easily be left behind during economic downturns.

Many of them have lost their jobs in export manufacturing, including garments, textiles and electronics – and in tourism and related services. Employers are also more likely to lay off women workers if they consider that they are not the primary heads of households.

Women form nearly two-thirds of the total Asian migrant population, said the report. Yet, they have little protection.

In most Asian countries, less than 20 percent of female workers belong to labour unions. The loss of female income is likely to have a greater impact on welfare, as women tend to spend a greater proportion of their income on meeting the basic needs of household members.

Dr Heyzer cited the Philippines as one of the countries in the region that has achieved gender parity and maintained economic stability while dealing with the economic crisis, but it is still wanting in protection for women in migration and employment.

"Migration patterns of Filipino women are phenomenal, and although they helped caution the economic crisis through remittances, but they do not receive the care that they need," she said.

She also said the Philippines registered a five percent growth rate in its remittances, totaling 17 billion pesos (368.72 million U.S. dollars) in 2009. This helped push the growth of the South-east Asian country’s national economy from three percent in 2009 to 3.5 percent in the first months of 2010, she said. Yet, she noted the disturbing problem of de-skilling, where educated and professional Filipino women are forced to work as housemates and domestic helpers in other countries.

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