Myanmar needs to realize the potential of women and enable their entry into the labor market in order to generate economic growth driven by a “gender dividend,” said the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Thursday.
The UN said the conclusion was based on the findings from a series of 14 papers from the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Thematic Report, which examines the total labor force participation rate of both men and women. The department of population completed the Thematic Report on the Labor Force—the seventh paper out of 14—in June.
Although men and women make up almost an equal ratio of Myanmar’s population, according to the census data, just 50.5 percent of women are working, compared with 85.6 percent of men.
The UNFPA has maintained that women “are critical to Myanmar’s development,” and that they “hold the key to Myanmar’s future prosperity.”
The agency highlighted that if more women were to join the jobs sector, Myanmar would experience “a dramatic rise in the country’s per capita income.”
“The gender dividend can be unlocked immediately if jobs are created. But for this to happen, women need equal rights to education, jobs, credit, land, and decision-making positions,” said Janet Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar, in Thursday’s statement.
She told The Irrawaddy that she estimated that the vast majority of the total workforce in factories are women. She added that more women are entering employment, both domestically and internationally, as migrant workers.
The UN agency said youth unemployment in Myanmar contributes to the low labor force, and the causes are linked to socioeconomic status and education.
In Myanmar, from age 19, joblessness is the highest within the richest fifth of the country’s population. People with graduate diplomas have the highest unemployment rate, almost five times greater than those with no education.
However, those in then skilled labor sector, numbering almost 12 million, are underqualified for the work they perform, according to official census report.
Myanmar’s labor force is amongst the lowest in Asean, according to the UNFPA. Only 63.6 percent of the population is economically active, compared to 80.9 percent in Cambodia and 77.4 percent in Laos.