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How does the digital economy affect opportunities for women at work?

21 7 5
THE digital economy is expanding rapidly in Asia, boosting growth and economic opportunities at a time of otherwise disappointing global productivity growth.

How then does the digital economy affect opportunities for women to participate in the workforce?

Between 2000 and 2016 internet users in Asian countries increased from around 6 percent to almost 54 percent of the population. This was driven largely by mobile phone penetration, which increased from around 13 subscriptions per 100 people in 2000 to 129 subscriptions per 100 people in 2016.

At the same time women’s workforce participation increased across the region, with the average participation rate rising from around 45 percent of the female population in 2000 to 46.9 percent in 2016.

SEE ALSO: Gender quotas not the only answer to closing the gender gap

Perhaps unsurprisingly we find a significant positive association between internet use and women’s workforce participation. Indeed, our most conservative estimate suggests that growth in internet use can account for an amount equivalent to all of the increase in women’s workforce participation in Asia between 2000 and 2016.

However, this result does not necessarily imply that internet use is the cause of increased participation. Some of the increase in internet use in the region is potentially driven by greater levels of women’s workforce participation.

A more formal assessment of the association between internet use and women’s workforce participation needs variables that are strongly related to increases in internet use and unlikely to directly affect women’s participation.

For instance, states typically regulate the internet and traditional media sources in an attempt to control communication that is deemed political or otherwise anti-social — not to restrict the participation of women in the workforce. Variables........

© Asian Correspondent