September 25, 2017

For aging Asia, has tackling boardroom gender bias now become an economic necessity?

For aging Asia, has tackling boardroom gender bias now become an economic necessity?

New findings published by the British recruitment firm Hays have revealed that 80% of top jobs across Southeast Asia are held by men. But as populations across the region continue to age, the consultancy has argued that tackling this imbalance could be key to ensuring future growth and competitiveness.

The data, collected from 30 industry sectors across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, also reveal that a total of 81% of female respondents believed they face barriers to career success due to their gender. More than half suggested that there are gender diversity issues within their companies that need to be addressed.

Hong Kong is shown to have the highest number of men occupying the top jobs, at 89%. Though Malaysia has the largest portion of female leaders, this remains at less than a quarter (24%).

“Tackling gender bias around promotion, recruitment and accommodating life choices such as parenting and elder care requires focus and can be confronting to any organization,” Hays Hong Kong managing director Dean Stallard said.

“However, with an aging population and workforce in Asia, the companies that get this right will ensure they have the largest pool of talent to draw upon as candidates get harder to find and thus, will gain a competitive advantage.”

The research comes against the backdrop of the International Monetary Fund’s warning in May that the rapidly growing number of elderly people in Asian economies is set to create a demographic “tax” on growth.

Asia’s population growth rate is projected to fall to zero by 2050 and the share of working-age people—now at its peak—will decline over the coming decades, the IMF said.

Urging companies to see past their “unconscious bias” when it comes to recruiting, Stallard said “It is well-known that managers often hire in their own image so given men far outnumber women in line management and senior roles, deliberate intervention is required if companies are to reap the benefits offered by greater gender diversity.”

Considering the role of the quotas in increasing gender diversity on boards, Nina Smith suggests in her IZA World of Labor article that: “From an economic efficiency perspective, ensuring that there are good female candidates for board positions requires widening the pipeline of women progressing to senior management.”

“Policymakers may have to change their focus from requiring quotas for the top of an organization to the much broader task of getting a more balanced gender division of careers within the family, for instance by encouraging more fathers to take advantage of parental leave schemes.”

The impacts of an aging labor market in Asia will be further discussed in The labor market in Japan, 2000–2016, to be published on the IZA World of Labor this Thursday.

Contact a topic spokesperson