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Myanmar Country Context Paper

Myanmar Country Context Paper

This country context paper provides an overview of women’s contribution to Myanmar’s economy as farmers, entrepreneurs and wage workers, and identifies key barriers to women’s economic empowerment in Myanmar.

The paper provides a snapshot of the many factors that either facilitate or inhibit women’s economic empowerment in Myanmar, focusing on: laws and their implementation; social norms; access to markets and productive assets; business and work; and political representation. The report also considers the key actors and institutions that are driving or resisting policy reforms that promote gender equality in the world of work, and provides recommendations for addressing the underlying causes of gender gaps.


Over the last decade, there have been significant advances in social and economic indicators for women. The situation for women and girls has improved in many areas – particularly the labour force participation rate of women, non-agricultural wage employment, access to credit, literacy rates, primary and secondary education completion, and the maternal mortality ratio. Myanmar comes in at around the middle of all countries in the 2016 Gender Inequality Index.

Despite gains, women continue to face obstacles in accessing rights. Many of these obstacles are common to women across the developing world, however the level of institutionalised gender discrimination in Myanmar is relatively high. Girls and boys complete school at similar rates, but this does not translate this into greater earnings or literacy for women. Women are underrepresented in almost all areas of public life. Patriarchal stereotypes are prevalent, bolstered by religious norms. Age, disability, ethnicity, poverty, geography, migratory status and other factors can compound disadvantage.

In 2015, the overall labour force participation rate was 64.7 – but for males was 80 per cent, much higher than the 52 per cent for females. On average, women earn 25 per cent less than men and women are often employed in the informal sector which increases the risk of exploitation. Female ownership (at 27 per cent) and management (at 29 per cent) of private firms is lower than in other countries in the region. Women made up 52 per cent of employees in government administration, but only 39 per cent of leadership positions.


  • Introduction
    • National policy priorities
  • Part one: Legal and regulatory frameworks and their implementation
    • Women, business and investment
    • Women and labour laws
    • Responsibility for women’s economic empowerment in government
  • Part two: social norms and unpaid care work
  • Part three: access to assets, finance and markets
    • Access to finance and assets
    • Access to markets
  • Part four: Business culture and practices
  • Part five: Women’s visibility, collective voice and representation
    • Women in politics
    • Women in the public sector
    • Women in peak bodies for business
    • Women in labour unions
    • Women in the household
    • Women’s networks
  • Part six: Summary
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