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Gendered Impacts of MSME Policy Responses to COVID-19 in South East Asia

Investing in Women Monash University


Asia Pacific Vietnam The Philippines Indonesia


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Gendered Impacts of MSME Policy Responses to COVID-19 in South East Asia

Gendered Impacts of MSME Policy Responses to COVID-19 in South East Asia

The pandemic has had a huge impact on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in South East Asia. Lowered consumer demand, supply chain disruptions and possibilities of shutdowns have posed sustainability challenges. Pre-COVID-19, women owned 50% of microenterprises and 59% of small and medium-sized enterprises in East Asia. Evidence worldwide shows that while policy interventions were introduced to support MSMEs during the pandemic, policy response was seldom designed with a gender lens. Little is also known about the gendered impact of the post-COVID-19 MSME policies implemented in the Southeast Asian region. 

Gendered Impacts of MSME Policy Responses to COVID-19 in South East Asia uncovers the outcomes of MSME policy responses to the pandemic in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. It draws on fieldwork conducted from July 2021 to January 2022 in each of the three countries, analysing the varied experiences of women and men in the MSME sector. It also examines how women and men have been consulted in policy design; the extent to which policy responses included gender analysis in design or application; factors influencing priorities in designing policy; the gender breakdown of beneficiaries of the policy support; the types of support measures which benefitted women the most; and the lessons or recommendations that could be drawn from these three country case studies. 


  • The three common obstacles across Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam since the pandemic began were inadequate working capital, decline in domestic demand and the disruption of production/supply chains/business networks.  
  • Enterprises in all countries faced a series of ongoing challenges. These challenges were related to depressed demand for products and services, higher cost of inputs (reflecting supply chain disruptions) and operational cash flow problems (reflecting inadequate working capital).  
  • Both men and women reported difficulties accessing finance at the time of the survey, especially in Indonesia and Vietnam. 
  • More than two-thirds of women and men enterprises in all countries responded to the COVID-19 crisis by increasing the use of online or digital platforms and solutions. Senior managers reported that digitisation was the ‘new normal.’ 
  • There was minimal consultation with MSMEs (or any organization they were part of) about policy responses. In Indonesia only 11% of WMSMEs and 4% of MMSMEs reported any such consultation with government or policymakers. In Vietnam, 15% of WMSMEs and 14% of MMSMEs reported consultation. For the Philippines, reported consultation with government was appreciably higher: 41% for WMSMEs and 32% for MMSMEs. 
  • There were also widespread gaps in the awareness of government support measures. This is tied to the lack of consultation too. 
  • The proportion of beneficiary enterprises across various government support measures ranges from 5-22% for WMSMEs and 7-19% for MMSMEs (Table 10). Cash transfers, digitization support, and training and education for establishing businesses had the most beneficiary coverage, though still around one-fifth.  
  • Limited utilisation of government support reflected multiple impediments to accessing support. The lack of awareness of programs/initiatives and too many requirements to access support were two of the top three reasons for the enterprises not receiving government support in all countries 


    • 1Introduction  
    • 2 Research methods 
      • 2.1 Data collection  
      • 2.2 Definition of women-led enterprises 
      • 2.3 Distribution of sample by size of enterprise 
    • 3 Impact and adaptation 
      • 3.1 Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic 
      • 3.2 Adaptation and survival strategies 
    • 4 Policy Response  
      • 4.1 Representation in decision making 
      • 4.2 Take up of government support by enterprises 
      • 4.3 Which types of policy support were most useful? 
      • 4.4 Reasons for not receiving government support 
      • 4.5 Support from the private sector 
    • 5 What do the enterprises say they need? 
      • 5.1 Most needed policies 
      • 5.2 Views of senior management 
    • 6 Policy Recommendations 
  • APPENDIX A: Literature Review  

This report was originally published on the Monash University website. 

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