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Education key to more women in SE Asia workforce

Education is key to growing the participation of Southeast Asian women in the labor force, an Indonesian business leader said Tuesday.

The Indonesia Business Coalition for Women Empowerment is pushing to extend the stay of girls in school to up to 12 years from 9 years so they won’t get forced into early marriage, said its executive director, Widiastuti.

“If a family has to decide who to send to school, because they have a certain limited income, in the past especially, they will most likely give the son preferential treatment,” Widiastuti said.

A lack of education makes women vulnerable to pay inequality, she said.

In Indonesia, there is a 16-percent wage gap across the board between men and women. The inequality runs as high as 50 percent for low-skill jobs then narrows to 21 percent for those who finished high school and 6.2 percent in the tertiary level.

“We need to push further not just government but the corporate sector, to open up for women to take up leadership positions to go from entry level, to middle manager level,” Widiastuti said.

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