Latest MasterCard Report Explores Correlation between Education and Labor Force Participation Rates for Women in Asia 

Tweet this: Boosting female labor participation rates key to offsetting #Asia’s declining demographics: New #MasterCard Report

Singapore, 23 September 2013 – A new insights report by MasterCard highlights that the economic growth of a market is closely tied with the opportunity offered to half its population – women – and besides access to education, more needs to be done in order to achieve equality and empowerment for this segment.

The report, authored by Dr. Simon Ogus, Chief Executive Officer, DSG Asia Limited, is titled ‘Women Power and Economic Growth in Asia’ and examines the contribution to economic growth made by women through a detailed analysis of women’s labor force participation in the key economies of East, Southeast and South Asia. Specifically, the study which looks at 17 markets[1] in Asia aims to identify the role of education in boosting labor productivity.

“There is an urgency to better understand how women’s labor force participation can be raised in a region as diverse as Asia. While markets such as Japan and South Korea are ageing surprisingly fast, others such as Cambodia and Myanmar are just stepping onto the global stage as they embrace economic reform. Across all these markets, raising women’s labor force participation rate offers the obvious solution to achieving economic development,” said Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Global Economic Advisor, MasterCard.

Comparing historical data between enrollment in secondary and tertiary education with labor force participation rates, the report identifies that there is a clear and positive relationship between rates of secondary education enrolment and productivity per employee. The relationship continues to hold for tertiary enrolment but it appears that beyond a certain level, there seems to be a weak relationship between an increasing supply of highly educated females and generally female labor participation rates.

This means that in addition to education, a range of factors impacting the economic contributions made by women in the workforce need to be addressed including country-specific socio-cultural factors, traditional beliefs, and government policies.

Dr. Simon Ogus said, “The good news from this brief survey is that a couple laggards aside, East and South Asia have successfully boosted the education levels of both men and women over the past four decades, and have hence seen labor productivity levels rise in tandem.

“The rather less positive news is that many within these increasingly large cohorts of educated women have struggled to find suitable employment opportunities. This could stem from a number of factors such as a lack of support mechanisms for child and elderly care preventing women from entering the workforce, or traditional, chauvinistic cultural attitudes. Whatever the explanation, governments must consider adopting female labor force participation-friendly policies, in order to tap on the opportunity to employ large numbers of highly-educated females,” he concluded.

Asian Markets at a Glance

  • Japan and Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs) (Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan) – These markets have all achieved very high levels of secondary education enrollment for women, however, on average the labor force participation rate for women is approximately 50% suggesting that more needs to be done in order to make the best use of the large cohort of educated females.
  • Asian Tigers (China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand) – This grouping appears to be following in the NICs footsteps of achieving a well-educated female workforce over the last two decades however, there has been little sign of a surge in female labor force participation rates which is currently at approximately 55%. Thailand and China have been particularly successful in nurturing high participation rates, more so than their peers in the same grouping.
  • South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) – With the exception of Bangladesh, labor force participation rates across the subcontinent are the worst in Asia, with average  workforce participation rates amongst women coming in below 40%. While the region has made big strides over the last two decades in terms of primary and secondary education enrollment, much remains to be done in boosting the female workforce.
  • Emerging ASEAN (Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam) – On measures of female education and employment, the progress seem good. Universal primary education has been achieved while secondary enrolment rates for women are on the rise. This bodes well for future productivity growth, especially if labor laws remain employer and investor friendly, and infrastructure is successfully upgraded.

For the full report, please visit:

MasterCard and its Suite of Research Properties

The MasterCard Index suite in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa includes the long-running MasterCard Index of Consumer Confidence, as well as the MasterCard Index of Women’s AdvancementMasterCard Survey on Online ShoppingMasterCard Index of Financial Literacy, and the MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities. In addition to the Indices, MasterCard’s research properties also include a range of consumer surveys including Ethical Spending and a series on Consumer Purchasing Priorities (covering TravelDining & EntertainmentEducationMoney Management, Luxury and General Shopping).

MasterCard also regularly releases Insights reports providing analysis of business dynamics, financial policies and regulatory activities in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. Over 80 Insights reports have been produced since 2004. MasterCard has also released a series of four books on Asian consumer insights, authored by Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Global Economic Advisor for MasterCard and published by John Wiley & Sons.

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 @MasterCardNewsjoin the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.


Georgette Tan, MasterCard,, +65 6390 5971

Vasundhara Subrahmanian, Weber Shandwick,, +65 6825 8054

[1] Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam