Women in Asia have come a long way. They are achieving higher educational levels and taking advantage of expanding socio-economic opportunities.
“In Singapore, female resident labour force participation rate has grown from 25% in the 1960s, to roughly 60% in 2012,” Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo said at the second multipartite regional meeting on financial security of older women in the east and southeast Asia.
Despite these encouraging figures, Teo pointed out that women across Asia are more likely than men to experience poverty and be disadvantaged in their old age.
“For example, in urban China, poverty rates among older women are three to four times higher than older men,” she said.
It’s not just Asia. In the European Union, the poverty rate of elderly women is 37% higher than that of elderly men, Teo added.
One reason for this is because women tend to experience more interruptions to employment as they are more likely to be responsible for family caregiving, whether for their children or their parents.
Unfortunately, with longer life expectancy than men, these interruptions, coupled with generally lower wages also mean that women are also often financially unprepared to take care of their own needs when they get older.
The conference, held recently in Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel by Tsao Foundation’s International Longevity Centre – Singapore (ILC-S) and supported by the Citi Foundation, aims to bring attention and action on issues surrounding financial security among older women.
Tsao Foundation is a pioneer in community-based primary healthcare that promotes successful ageing and enhances the well-being of older people by catalysing constructive change.
Susana Harding, Director of Tsao Foundation’s ILC-S, spoke at the conference: “Against the background of increasingly ageing populations in Asia, the financial security of older persons, especially women, is a challenge that has become more pressing.”
Harding added: “We hope this conference will be able to bring key stakeholders together to address this gap in financial security for women and to act as a catalyst for further research and collaboration into this critical area of far-reaching health, social and economic consequences.”
Meanwhile, Regina Seow, Managing Director of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Citizenship at Citi Asia Pacific, said: “Financial inclusion is one of the key focus areas of Citi’s corporate citizenship efforts globally. In Asia Pacific, we partner with NGOs to deliver more than 30 results-oriented financial inclusion programs every year to different segments of low-income communities.”
She explained: “One of these is with Tsao Foundation to set up the Regional Learning Network on Women’s Financial Security in Old Age, which sprang from the learnings and success of the financial education programme for low-income, mature women in Singapore that we launched together eight years ago.
“Today’s convening underscores our continued efforts to deepen understanding and spur collaborative efforts amongst stakeholders to advance financial inclusion for disadvantaged groups in Asia Pacific.”
Keynote speakers at the conference include the distinguished Ambassador Linda Tsao Yang, Chairman of the Asian Corporate Governance Association and former US Ambassador and Executive Director to the Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank, and Dr Joanne Yoong, Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Research at University of Southern California.