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Singapore, 3 March 2016 Despite more women than men in Asia Pacific having tertiary education, there still exists a large gender gap that hinders women from achieving their full economic potential be it through participation in the workforce or presence in leadership positions, according to the latest MasterCard Index of Women’s Advancement being released in the lead-up to International Women’s Day.

In 12 out of 18 Asia Pacific markets, women outnumber men in university education gross enrolment rate, with Sri Lanka (164.0), New Zealand (141.8) and Australia (137.5) taking the top spots. Significant progress has been made in Indonesia with enrolment in advanced education having grown from 87.2 in 2007 to 105.1 in 2016. However, educational attainment is not translating into workforce participation in many markets. More women than men are entering university in New Zealand, China and the Philippines, but women are still much less likely to be in the workforce.

Overall New Zealand ranked first (78.0), followed by Australia (76.0) and the Philippines (71.4). At the other end of spectrum, Japan (49.5), Bangladesh (45.5), Sri Lanka (44.3), India (38.0) and Pakistan (23.4) had Index scores indicating that much more can be done to achieve gender parity.

The Index measures the socioeconomic standing of women across 18 Asia Pacific markets[1] and is comprised of three main indicators which are derived from additional sub- indicators: Capability (Secondary Education, Tertiary Education), Employment (Workforce Participation, Regular Employment) and Leadership (Business Owners, Business Leaders, Political leaders). The scores above show the proportion of women to every 100 men. A score of 100 indicates equality between the sexes.

“Gender gaps in access to education have narrowed over the years, but we still have a long way to go before women across Asia Pacific are equally represented in business and politics. The lack of critical mass in women’s representation and participation in the economy – coupled with the inadequate and inconsistent implementation of equality legislation – continues to be the biggest challenge for women and is reflected across all markets irrespective of the pace of economic development,” said Georgette Tan, Group Head, Communications, Asia Pacific, MasterCard. “Access is crucial to integrating female talent in the economy as women still don’t have the same access to job opportunities or even social networks as men. A range of factors impacting the economic contributions made by women in the workforce also need to be addressed including country-specific socio-cultural factors, traditional beliefs, and government policies. Closing the gender equality gap and leveling the employment playing field would benefit not just women, but the global economy as a whole.”

For the 10th consecutive year, New Zealand (78.0), Australia (76.0) and the Philippines (71.4) continue to have the highest overall Index scores.

  • Apart from the top three markets and Singapore (70.0), all other markets in Asia Pacific had scores below the 70-point mark with Japan (49.5) and four South Asia markets – Bangladesh (45.5), Sri Lanka (44.3), India (38.0) and Pakistan (23.4) – among the lowest and only markets scoring below 50 points.
  • Compared to the previous year, women in New Zealand made the most progress overall (78.0, up 0.7 points), followed by Japan (49.5, up 0.5 points), Nepal (62.5, up 0.5 points) and Bangladesh (45.5, up 0.4 points), while declines were recorded in Sri Lanka (44.3, down 0.7 points), Malaysia (52.7, down 0.4 points) which reached the lowest it has in five years, and also in China (66.3, down 0.2 points).

Of the three components, Capability remains the strongest indicator of Asia Pacific women’s advancement towards gender parity for the tenth consecutive year with seven markets scoring 100 points (New Zealand, Philippines, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal).

  • With the exception of South Korea (86.6), the Capability index scores for all markets in the region are above 90.0.
  • Women in New Zealand, Thailand, Philippines and Taiwan have consistently been on par or better represented in secondary and tertiary institutions than their male counterparts since 2007.
  • Indonesia (99.1) and Hong Kong (98.5) continue to make positive steps towards greater educational attainment with their scores edging closer to parity.
  • On the other hand, women in Pakistan (86.2), South Korea (86.6) and Bangladesh (89.3) have much fewer opportunities than men when it comes to secondary and tertiary education.

Women’s progress in Employment remains broadly stagnant across Asia Pacific.

  • Of the 18 Asia Pacific markets, New Zealand (91.4), Australia (91.0) and Taiwan (90.7) continue to be the most economically active with highest access to regular formal employment. They are the closest to being on par with their respective male cohorts in terms of Workforce Participation and Regular Employment.
  • With the exception of Malaysia, women in developing markets such as Vietnam (90.2), China (83.2) and Thailand (80.4) are more likely to be working (formal or informal) than women in the advanced economies of Japan (69.6) and Korea (69.2).
  • The low Employment scores for Japan and Korea suggest that the cultural bias against women working is fairly strong in these societies. However, this trend is anticipated to gradually change in the coming years with the governments in both markets taking steps to raise the level of women’s participation in the workforce.

Leadership remains the weakest component in women’s progress towards gender parity.

  • New Zealand (51.9) and Australia (50.2) are the only two markets with more than 50 women business owners/ business leaders/ government leaders for every 100 male business owners/ business leaders/ government leaders. The Philippines is not far behind at 47.2 points.
  • New Zealand saw the biggest increase in score from a year ago (51.9, up 1.3 points) while China (34.7), Malaysia (19.8) and Sri Lanka (13.1) recorded declines of 0.1, 0.6 and 0.7 points, respectively.
  • Of the 18 Asia Pacific markets, women in Malaysia (19.8), Korea (19.5), Bangladesh (17.2), Japan (15.2), Sri Lanka (13.1), India (12.2) and Pakistan (3.5) continue to face tremendous hurdles in making progress in leadership in the business and political spheres.
  • Notably, the Philippines (90.9) scores significantly higher than all other Asia Pacific markets for business leadership, with New Zealand (66.4) and Australia (56.9) trailing behind.
  • Business ownership is the highest among Nepalese women (72.5), followed by Australia (50.7) – these are the only two markets with more than 50 women business owners for every 100 male business owners.

Download the full report:

MIWA TableScores are indexed to 100 males to indicate how close or how far women in each of the Asia Pacific markets covered by the research are to achieving socio-economic parity with men. A score under 100 indicates gender inequality in favor of males while a score above 100 indicates inequality in favor of females. A score of 100 indicates equality between the sexes. The Index and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

About MasterCard

MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardAP and @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Beyond the Transaction Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

Media Contacts

Georgette Tan, MasterCard,, +65 6390 5971

Georgina Mallory, Weber Shandwick,, +65 6825 8026

Samantha Yong, Weber Shandwick,, +65 6825 8053

[1] New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Singapore, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan