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WTW report reveals gender wealth disparity in Asia Pacific

WTW report reveals gender wealth disparity in Asia Pacific

 December 07, 2022

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WTW has released a report that reveals a wide diversity across Asia Pacific.

According to regional findings from the 2022 Global Gender Wealth Equity Report, women in the Asia Pacific region accumulate less wealth than men at the end of their careers, with varying inequities by country. The gender wealth gap is shaped by many contributing factors in this diverse region.

An enduring theme across Asia is that women spend more time in family support roles – that is unpaid care roles – relative to men. This is attributable to a cultural bias in many Asian countries, which places the primary ownership of childcare and meeting basic eldercare needs, on working-age women.

Women face barriers to career progression 

Women also face various barriers to career progression, which reinforces their role as primary caretakers at home:

  • Women tend to be afforded fewer opportunities for promotion and raises. Therefore, from a financial perspective, it makes sense for the lower paid party, in this case the woman, to assume the unpaid household duties.
  • Maternity leave in many markets is significantly greater than paternity leave, which by extension leads to women assuming the childcare role.
  • Another factor influencing the prevalence of women adopting unpaid roles is the availability of childcare. In markets such as Australia and Japan, there can be a scarcity of childcare availability and substantial waiting lists.

The impact of family support is ingrained in women’s career, pay and promotional opportunities. This often leads to fewer working hours, and slower cumulative development of knowledge and skills when compared to men with less significant workforce interruption.

Pay gaps persist but are narrowing 

Women returning to the workforce may achieve slower incremental salary increases and delayed promotion compared to their male counterparts. In some markets such as Japan, overtime pay is prevalent, but many women can’t access it due to their caregiving responsibilities.

Pay gaps also persist, although in recent years there has been an effort to narrow this. These changes have been underpinned by legislative developments in some countries, for example Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and the annual gender pay gap disclosure requirement for large employers in Japan introduced in July 2021.

Similarly, in recent times there has been some focus in the region on supporting provisions for women to assume leadership positions. While some have been enshrined into law, others remain aspirational. For example, in Japan there is a disclosure requirement for the number of women included on boards and in Singapore, the government is taking an active role to promote the return of women into the workforce after having a child.

Despite initiatives across the region, WTW data shows there are only two countries where the distribution of women in senior expert and leadership roles equals or exceeds 10 per cent – Hong Kong and Singapore. In stark contrast, only 2 per cent of women in Taiwan are in senior expert and leadership roles.

Somewhat counterintuitively, as the average pay gap over a women’s working career relative to men increases with seniority, this serves to improve Taiwan’s Wealth Equity Index relative to peers in the region.

Read the full report

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