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How the gender pay gap varies across south-east Asia

Financial Times Confidential


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Workplace Gender Equality

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How the gender pay gap varies across south-east Asia

How the gender pay gap varies across south-east Asia

The ‘How the gender pay gap varies across south-east Asia’ report from the Financial Times provides an overview of the gender pay gap in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, drawing on a number of recent studies.

The report compares the number of women and men in top management positions, perceptions of the number of opportunities available to women compared to men, levels of men and women’s satisfaction about career prospects, size of pay rises received by women compared to men and perceptions of the gender pay gap.


  • The article highlights a lack of equal opportunity in the job market cost the region’s economies an estimated 18 per cent of gross domestic product. If pursuing gender equality is positive for business and the economy, then Indonesia is in a good position to benefit, while Malaysia and Vietnam will struggle unless action is taken.
  • The article sites an FTCR survey of 5,000 urban respondents in five Asean economies in December 2017 found that Indonesia is the only country where satisfaction over career progression is higher among women than men. It is also the only country where salary growth was significantly higher for women throughout last year (salary growth for women in Thailand was marginally greater than for men). The article also found the highest female-to-male ratio in top management in Indonesia.
  • Meanwhile, Vietnam is likely to suffer the most from gender inequality if no action is taken. The survey showed Vietnam has the lowest female-to-male ratio in top management, with one woman to every eight men, compared with 5.6 men in Malaysia and 2.8 men in the Philippines.
  • As in many south-east Asian countries, women in Vietnam still suffer from gender-based discrimination at work. According to a 2015 report by the International Labour Organisation, Vietnamese women have less access than men to productive resources, education, and skills development, and fewer job opportunities. The ILO says that gender discrimination in Vietnam is the product of a society that still thinks women have a lower status than men. Women are expected to take on unpaid care work and engage in subsistence agriculture, particularly in the central-north and Central Highlands regions.
  • Malaysia has the second-lowest female-to-male ratio in top management after Vietnam. Malaysian workers, both women and men, are also the least satisfied with their career prospects across the Asean-5, and they reported the lowest average pay rise last year. Malaysian women reported a lower increase than their male colleagues.


  • Women outnumbered by men in Asean-5 top management
  • A societal drag
  • Fewer opportunities for Vietnamese women
  • Unhappy Malaysia workers
  • Malaysian women least satisfied about career prospects
  • Malaysians received lower pay increases
  • Female bosses
  • Perception of gender pay gap
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