ESG Viewpoint: The cost of gender disparity in Asian companies
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ESG Viewpoint: The cost of gender disparity in Asian companies

Failure to address disparity between genders could lead to various forms of societal and economic losses. We’ve been engaging with 26 of Asia’s most influential companies on this topic.

Gender and the risk to GDP

Gender disparity is a chronic problem in many Asian countries and a failure to address this issue could directly and indirectly lead to various forms of societal and economic losses. Not doing so means that half the population risks being systematically marginalised and excluded in the workplace. We discuss the socio-economic issues prevalent in these markets and explain how we have been engaging with companies at the board level. Our ambition is to make companies aware of related issues and help them understand how to improve gender inequality and reduce potential negative impacts on their businesses and the wider economy.

Societal and economic losses

Loss of productivity and human capital – despite being among the most economically advanced markets in the region, gender roles in Japan and Korea remain very clearly defined and deeply entrenched. In the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Index (June 2023), Japan ranks 126 out of 146 countries, ranking last among the most developed nations. South Korea has the worst gender pay gap1 among the OECD countries. Despite having one of the most accessible education systems in the region, gender biases still appear to limit the career paths that women pursue. Reports from Human Rights Watch2 highlighted that discrimination against women with children or married women of child-bearing age is still prevalent in the region. This discrimination risks wasting talent and can serve to discourage working women from having children. These in turn can lead to loss of productivity and harm societal generational contracts for pension systems or care work.

Demographic and economic crisis – a country needs a birth rate of at least 2.1 to ensure productivity and the stability of the population. Yet, that’s not the case for many developed countries particularly in Asia. According to the CIA’s The World FactBook (February 2024), four Asian countries/regions had the lowest estimated fertility rate globally in 2023: Hong Kong (1.23), Singapore (1.17), South Korea (1.11) and Taiwan (1.09). Low fertility rates in conjunction with an aging population create the risk of even greater long-term societal harm. Declines in production and innovation, stagnating economic growth together with increases in health expenditure and a pension crisis, are issues that we are seeing rear their head in Japan.

The causes of gender disparity

Culture norms – the traditional Confucian system influenced the formation of contemporary societies in the region, and against this backdrop, women are still expected to the be main caretakers for the family. While both men and women face mounting pressure from the cost of housing, elderly care and children’s education, women still predominantly bear the responsibility for household maintenance and caregiving in many advanced Asian economies. With limited infrastructure support, women tend to face greater pressure to give up their careers after having children. This has devastating impacts on workforce diversity and productivity.

Interested in learning more?

We discuss gender diversity as a chronic problem in many Asian countries.  We have engaged with 26 of the most influential companies across Asia with all male boards to share our aspirations around board diversity.

 

Download the full ESG Viewpoint to learn more.

8 March 2024
Yu-Ting Fu
Yu-Ting Fu
Corporate Governance Analyst
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ESG Viewpoint: The cost of gender disparity in Asian companies

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For use by professional clients and/or equivalent investor types in your jurisdiction (not to be used with or passed on to retail clients).

 

This document is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered representative of any particular investment. This should not be considered an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments, or to provide investment advice or services. Investing involves risk including the risk of loss of principal. Your capital is at risk. Market risk may affect a single issuer, sector of the economy, industry or the market as a whole. The value of investments is not guaranteed, and therefore an investor may not get back the amount invested. International investing involves certain risks and volatility due to potential political, economic or currency fluctuations and different financial and accounting standards. The securities included herein are for illustrative purposes only, subject to change and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell. Securities discussed may or may not prove profitable. The views expressed are as of the date given, may change as market or other conditions change and may differ from views expressed by other Columbia Threadneedle Investments (Columbia Threadneedle) associates or affiliates. Actual investments or investment decisions made by Columbia Threadneedle and its affiliates, whether for its own account or on behalf of clients, may not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information is not intended to provide investment advice and does not take into consideration individual investor circumstances. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor’s specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Asset classes described may not be suitable for all investors. Past performance does not guarantee future results, and no forecast should be considered a guarantee either. Information and opinions provided by third parties have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. This document and its contents have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority.
In Australia: Issued by Threadneedle Investments Singapore (Pte.) Limited [“TIS”], ARBN 600 027 414. TIS is exempt from the requirement to hold an Australian financial services licence under the Corporations Act and relies on Class Order 03/1102 in marketing and providing financial services to Australian wholesale clients as defined in Section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001. TIS is regulated in Singapore (Registration number: 201101559W) by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289), which differ from Australian laws.
In Singapore: Issued by Threadneedle Investments Singapore (Pte.) Limited, 3 Killiney Road, #07-07, Winsland House 1, Singapore 239519, which is regulated in Singapore by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289). Registration number: 201101559W. This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
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In Japan: Issued by Columbia Threadneedle Investments Japan Co., Ltd. Financial Instruments Business Operator, The Director-General of Kanto Local Finance Bureau (FIBO) No.3281, and a member of Japan Investment Advisers Association and Type II Financial Instruments Firms Association.
In UK: Issued by Threadneedle Asset Management Limited. Registered in England and Wales, Registered No. 573204, Cannon Place, 78 Cannon Street, London EC4N 6AG, United Kingdom. Authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.
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In Switzerland: Issued by Threadneedle Portfolio Services AG, Registered address: Claridenstrasse 41, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland.
This document is distributed by Columbia Threadneedle Investments (ME) Limited, which is regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA).For Distributors: This document is intended to provide distributors’ with information about Group products and services and is not for further distribution. For Institutional Clients: The information in this document is not intended as financial advice and is only intended for persons with appropriate investment knowledge and who meet the regulatory criteria to be classified as a Professional Client or Market Counterparties and no other Person should act upon it.
Columbia Threadneedle Investments is the global brand name of the Columbia and Threadneedle group of companies. WF1942722 (3/24)

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Risk Disclaimer

For use by professional clients and/or equivalent investor types in your jurisdiction (not to be used with or passed on to retail clients).

 

This document is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered representative of any particular investment. This should not be considered an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments, or to provide investment advice or services. Investing involves risk including the risk of loss of principal. Your capital is at risk. Market risk may affect a single issuer, sector of the economy, industry or the market as a whole. The value of investments is not guaranteed, and therefore an investor may not get back the amount invested. International investing involves certain risks and volatility due to potential political, economic or currency fluctuations and different financial and accounting standards. The securities included herein are for illustrative purposes only, subject to change and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell. Securities discussed may or may not prove profitable. The views expressed are as of the date given, may change as market or other conditions change and may differ from views expressed by other Columbia Threadneedle Investments (Columbia Threadneedle) associates or affiliates. Actual investments or investment decisions made by Columbia Threadneedle and its affiliates, whether for its own account or on behalf of clients, may not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information is not intended to provide investment advice and does not take into consideration individual investor circumstances. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor’s specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Asset classes described may not be suitable for all investors. Past performance does not guarantee future results, and no forecast should be considered a guarantee either. Information and opinions provided by third parties have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. This document and its contents have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority.
In Australia: Issued by Threadneedle Investments Singapore (Pte.) Limited [“TIS”], ARBN 600 027 414. TIS is exempt from the requirement to hold an Australian financial services licence under the Corporations Act and relies on Class Order 03/1102 in marketing and providing financial services to Australian wholesale clients as defined in Section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001. TIS is regulated in Singapore (Registration number: 201101559W) by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289), which differ from Australian laws.
In Singapore: Issued by Threadneedle Investments Singapore (Pte.) Limited, 3 Killiney Road, #07-07, Winsland House 1, Singapore 239519, which is regulated in Singapore by the Monetary Authority of Singapore under the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289). Registration number: 201101559W. This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
In Hong Kong: Issued by Threadneedle Portfolio Services Hong Kong Limited 天利投資管理香港有限公司. Unit 3004, Two Exchange Square, 8 Connaught Place, Hong Kong, which is licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) to conduct Type 1 regulated activities (CE:AQA779). Registered in Hong Kong under the Companies Ordinance (Chapter 622), No. 1173058.
In Japan: Issued by Columbia Threadneedle Investments Japan Co., Ltd. Financial Instruments Business Operator, The Director-General of Kanto Local Finance Bureau (FIBO) No.3281, and a member of Japan Investment Advisers Association and Type II Financial Instruments Firms Association.
In UK: Issued by Threadneedle Asset Management Limited. Registered in England and Wales, Registered No. 573204, Cannon Place, 78 Cannon Street, London EC4N 6AG, United Kingdom. Authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.
In the EEA: Issued by Threadneedle Management Luxembourg S.A. Registered with the Registre de Commerce et des Societes (Luxembourg), Registered No. B 110242, 44, rue de la Vallée, L-2661 Luxembourg, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
In Switzerland: Issued by Threadneedle Portfolio Services AG, Registered address: Claridenstrasse 41, 8002 Zurich, Switzerland.
This document is distributed by Columbia Threadneedle Investments (ME) Limited, which is regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA).For Distributors: This document is intended to provide distributors’ with information about Group products and services and is not for further distribution. For Institutional Clients: The information in this document is not intended as financial advice and is only intended for persons with appropriate investment knowledge and who meet the regulatory criteria to be classified as a Professional Client or Market Counterparties and no other Person should act upon it.
Columbia Threadneedle Investments is the global brand name of the Columbia and Threadneedle group of companies. WF1942722 (3/24)

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