Jakarta (ANTARA) - Gender and economic development ministers and senior officials from APEC member economies have agreed to intensify efforts to advance women’s economic empowerment to broaden and strengthen economic recovery in the Asia-Pacific region.

At the APEC Women and the Economy Forum, held online on Wednesday, members committed to putting women and girls at the center of economic recovery efforts by creating opportunities that can further unlock their potential, remove barriers, and better drive economies towards a swift, inclusive, and sustainable recovery, according to a statement received from the APEC Secretariat here on Friday.

“The impact of the current health and economic crisis is being felt disproportionately by women and girls across the APEC region due to the existing gender inequalities,” said Malaysia's Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Rina Mohd Harun, in her opening remarks at the High-Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy.

“Women face higher levels of economic hardships, income and job losses, (are) forced to take more hours of unpaid care work, and more susceptible to face domestic violence,” she remarked.

“Despite all the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, our main attention and commitment to enhance the women’s agenda, especially in strengthening the socioeconomic well-being of all women and girls in this region, remains indispensable,” she added.

According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the current crisis than men’s.

Women may also be at greater risk or exposure due to occupational sex-segregation: according to a United Nations’ policy brief, women make up 70 percent of the health workforce and are more likely to be frontline health workers, especially as nurses, midwives, and community health workers.

Therefore, Rina highlighted the importance of APEC not only as a policy forum, but as a platform to advance regional joint action for providing equal access to resources and opportunities for women and girls to benefit from and contribute to redeveloping the economy in the Asia-Pacific region.

“It is critical for APEC economies to adjust our policies urgently to support, empower, and effectively address the varying degrees of multidimensional and damaging impacts on women and girls in the region during this pandemic,” she said.

Recognizing that more effort is needed, especially in the area of women's participation in the digital economy, leadership, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Rina urged member economies to intensify public partnerships and engagement with the private sector.

She stressed the role of the La Serena Roadmap on Women and Inclusive Growth as an important guide for members for achieving the women’s empowerment agenda.

Endorsed in Chile, last year, the roadmap seeks to encourage action in several cross-cutting areas affecting economic growth for women. This includes access to capital and markets, labor force participation, access to leadership positions, education, training, and skills development.

The roadmap also encourages promoting more access for women in the context of a constantly changing world of work, as well as advancing sex-disaggregated data collection and analysis.

“Women workers and women-led small businesses continue to bear the brunt of the negative side effects of travel restrictions, lockdowns, and social distancing regimes because women are in consumer-facing services sectors,” explained APEC Secretariat executive director Rebecca Sta Maria at the forum.

“It is in this context that APEC’s continued leadership is necessary. We need to focus on not just the challenges, but also on the role that women are playing in dealing with the pandemic, their contributions and their role in the recovery," Sta Maria stated.

Furthermore, Sta Maria underlined the significance of trade in promoting gender equality and the need for member economies to focus on inclusive trade and investment policies so that “the policies facilitate unlocking otherwise untapped potential of women and girls in the region”.

Gender and economic development ministers and senior officials agreed on a joint statement at the meeting, reflecting their views on advancing women’s economic empowerment to strengthen post-pandemic economic recovery and resilience. (INE)

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Reporter: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
Editor: Suharto
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