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APEC Economic Policy Report on Structural Reform and Human Capital Development

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation


Asia Pacific


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APEC Economic Policy Report on Structural Reform and Human Capital Development

APEC Economic Policy Report on Structural Reform and Human Capital Development

The APEC Economic Policy Report on Structural Reform and Human Capital Development report from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation discusses some of the issues and policies relating to skills development and labour markets in the APEC region. It analyses how generally positive economic changes—such as the growth and development process, trade and globalisation, or technological upgrading—can contribute to structural unemployment, and what can be done to mitigate the impacts of these changes. It also discusses some policy options regarding the reallocation and mobility of displaced labour, and provide some pointers for regional cooperation and integration.

The report presents an analytical framework relating economic growth and human capital development, discussing the drivers of growth and human capital challenges at each stage of development. It also describes some of the human capital issues and challenges in the APEC region, looking into achievements and areas of improvement. The report offers some insights into needed structural reforms and policy priorities as well as opportunities for regional cooperation as well as some policy recommendations.


  • In most APEC economies, there are currently more women than men attending a tertiary educational institution, with the notable exceptions of Japan and Korea. Furthermore, there are often large gender disparities in degree courses, with female students typically dominating teaching and nursing studies, while being underrepresented in engineering and technology courses.
  • With the exception of New Zealand, all APEC economies have substantially more male than female students studying in vocational education. A few members have improved upon this disparity over the past 15 years, most notably Brunei Darussalam, but for most other economies, the gender gap in vocational education has been increasing over time. The reasons for this vary, but may include the fact that courses traditionally taken by women, such as nursing, now often require a college degree in many economies—a reason sometimes also stated for the large increase in female participation in tertiary education.
  • Constraints relating to maternity leave and child care, as well as the additional demands on their time, limit the ability of women to engage in full-time employment. Moreover, a gender-based disparity in childcare expectations, which is reflected institutionally through disparities in maternal and paternal leaves and benefits, puts women at a disadvantage in the labour market.
  • Despite often having higher levels of enrolment in tertiary education, female participation in the labour force lags behind that of males in all APEC economies (Figure 2.10). As a share of the working-age population over 15 years old, female participation is highest in Viet Nam at 74 per cent, while Papua New Guinea has the smallest disparity between male and female rates of participation. Conversely, the gap is particularly large in several APEC economies where the female participation rate is less than 70 per cent of the rate for men.
  • Increasing female labour market participation would not only increase the labour force but also boost productivity. First, in aggregate, the increase in female labour supply, especially of more highly educated women, can help boost structural change. Second, the employment of women enables companies to draw from a larger talent pool increasing productivity by reducing mismatches between worker skills and occupations. An increased presence of women in entrepreneurial activities can raise the average talent of entrepreneurs.


    • Dynamic Economies and Structural Unemployment
      • Globalisation and structural unemployment
      • Changing technology and disruption
    • Structural Reform and Human Capital Development: Theory and Linkages
      • From low- to middle-income status
      • Middle-income economies
      • High-income economies
      • Labour Productivity
        • Ensuring equitable access to quality education
        • Promoting technical and vocational education and training (TVET)
      • Labour Force Participation and Inclusion
        • Promoting female labour participation
        • Addressing youth unemployment
        • Challenges faced by elderly workers
        • Promoting entrepreneurship and self-employment
        • Supporting vulnerable and informal workers
      • Improving Adaptability
        • Designing effective labour market regulations
        • Improving social protection and assistance programmes
        • Developing effective unemployment benefit programmes
      • Active Labour Market Policies
        • A holistic approach to developing ALMPs
        • Labour Market Information Systems
        • Complexity, certification and coordination
      • Facilitating Connectivity
        • Promoting connectivity between economies
        • Insights from Individual Economy Reports
          • Policy challenges
          • Policy responses and regional cooperation
        • Policies for Structural Reforms, Growth and Inclusion
          • Policy priorities for low-income economies
          • Policy priorities for middle-income economies
          • Policy priorities for medium- and high-income economies
          • Policies for structural change and inclusion
        • Regional Cooperation
          • The Role of APEC
        • ANNEX A: Case Studies
        • ANNEX B: Individual Economy Reports
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