accountants and business advisers
The Gender Gap in Thailand: Still Much Work to Be Done
17 Nov 2016
The World Economic Forum puts Thailand in 60th place, out of 145 countries measured, in its Gender Gap Index. This ranking represents a modest rise over recent years, and while some areas of society show little evidence of unequal treatment, others show a wide gulf separating the genders. Within Asia, only the Philippines (#7 in the world), Laos (#52) and Singapore (#54) rank more highly. Other countries perform worse on key indicators for gender inequality, suggesting unfulfilled potential across much of society.
Some caveats are in order whenever this topic is discussed. Equal opportunity between the genders does not always translate to equal outcomes. For reasons considered by most to be entirely normal, distinct from variables like opportunity or remuneration, even a perfectly equal socioeconomic system would likely produce a greater number of male soldiers and truck drivers, along with more female teachers and speech therapists.
Still, analysis of statistics from the World Bank and other groups shows that significant improvements are needed to create a fair society. Though Thailand is heading in the right direction in several key indicators, women continue to make just 77% of the average male salary when performing the same work. Women also represent just 6% of all members of parliament, putting the country in worse position than in previous years, and near the very bottom of world rankings in that category – although these statistics might change following a planned return to democracy in the future.
Other positions of leadership – particularly in business – are also filled by men in disproportionate amounts. New Zealand and the Philippines are the only two countries in the Asia-Pacific region where at least half of the business owners, business leaders and government leaders are women. Thailand’s statistics on women in business management positions show significant improvement over its performance in previous years, but real parity between the sexes will require continued efforts.
Thailand’s higher education institutions have more female than male students, which is an impressive achievement in itself for a society. But statistics of this kind only underscore the lack of follow-through within society; women in Thailand are certainly well-educated enough to lead successfully in business and politics, and yet men continue to hold most of these positions. Though women earn a majority of the higher education degrees in Thailand, women also make less money and represent the majority of the country’s employees in the informal sector.
Other sources tell a similar story; the UN’s Human Development Report puts Thailand even lower (#76 worldwide) in its Gender Inequality Index. Through a deep examination of country data, the same report estimates that Thailand experiences a 38% loss in potential human development due to gender inequality alone.
PKF Thailand believes that, even apart from the moral imperative to treat all its people equally, society itself benefits most when it harnesses the maximum potential from all its citizens. Fair societies are generally happier ones, and everybody wins in a culture of respect and open opportunity. Although our own company’s staff and management team numbers both stand at over 75% female, we recognize that we continually see benefits from promoting greater opportunities for women in the workplace.
The lesson holds across all areas of society. At PKF, we focus on providing tax, audit, advisory services and business solutions for Thai companies and organizations. Other entities across the public and private sector are encouraged to play a positive role in ensuring equal opportunity as well.
As Thailand looks to its future, we must remember that the goal of becoming a fully-developed economy depends on the social advancement of gender equality as much as in technological integration and commercial success.
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