THE pay gap between men and women remains significant in many Asian countries
compared to the West, according to a report issued yesterday.
In China, it said nearly 600 million women were paid about 69 percent the amount men earn.
Women in many Asian countries were also found to be much less involved in company leadership than in the West.
The Asia Society's report, compiled by a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, warned that "to continue in this direction would put in peril Asia's many achievements."
China holds a middle position in terms of the pay gap, surprisingly ahead of Japan where women only earn 60 percent of the money earned by men.
South Korea came bottom of the survey with its women earning just 51 percent of men's wages.
The gap is also wide in Pakistan, Nepal, India and Cambodia compared to many other countries, according to the survey.
The narrowest gaps, the report found, were in Malaysia and Singapore, at 81 percent, and Mongolia and Thailand, at under 80 percent.
Globally, women's pay is 20 to 30 percent less than men's.
Limits on female employment cost the region US$89 billion a year in terms of lost productivity and human resources, the report said, citing United Nations data.
The problems preventing women from contributing their full potential start before birth with a preference for sons in some Asian countries leading to poorer medical care, nutrition and education for girls, especially in developing countries including China. This eventually causes many women to be less professionally capable of earning higher incomes, the report said.
In terms of leadership, China again ranked in the middle among Asian countries with about 25 percent of senior corporate positions going to women. In Japan only 5 percent of such jobs are held by women.
Thailand topped the list with women in 39 percent of senior company positions.
The percentage of women on corporate boards was 8.5 percent in China, 1.9 percent in South Korea and 0.9 in Japan. The global average is 21 percent.
The report suggests that measures such as more parental leave, better childcare and gender-equal retirement packages would encourage women to persevere with their careers.
More fundamentally, it urges greater education aimed at valuing girls and women on a par with boys and men, steps to end sex selective abortions and an improvement in women's property rights and other protections to ensure they can fully contribute.
The Asia Society, based in New York, is a non-profit organization seeking to promote closer ties between Asia and the West.