Women in Business and Commerce in Asia

Feature | 18 July 2013

Women play a key role in innovative economic development and business expansion in Asia and the Pacific. Here are 12 opportunities and challenges female entrepreneurs face in the region.

  1. Women make up more than half of the population in Asia, and the United Nations estimates that the Asia-Pacific economy would earn an additional $89 billion annually if women were able to achieve their full economic potential.
    Source: UN Women report 2011-2012 Progress of the World's Women: In Pursuit of Justice
  2. Female entrepreneurs, like their male counterparts, are likely to start a business if the general business environment is favorable.
    Source: Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI) The Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index
  3. There are nearly 6 million formal, women-owned small businesses in East Asia. And in economies like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, women-owned businesses are increasing and growing at a fast rate.
    Source: US Department of State Speech of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the APEC Women and the Economy Forum, 12 June 2012.
  4. In the People's Republic of China, women often must show their husband's identity cards to apply for credit. Similarly, in the Philippines, women often must have their husbands' signatures on loan documents.
    Sources: ADB report People's Republic of China Country Gender Assessment; ADB, Canadian International Development Agency, European Commission, United Nations Children's Fund, United Nations Development Fund for Women, and United Nations Population Fund Paradox and Promise in the Philippines: A Joint Country Gender Assessment
  5. Evidence suggests that women tend to own less land and lead smaller enterprises. In Indonesia, 85% of female entrepreneurs own small-scale businesses, whereas a Lao PDR study showed that women owned 63% of SMEs but that the SMEs owned by men tended to be larger.
    Source: World Bank's 2010 Economic Opportunities for Women in East Asia and Pacific Region
  6. Higher education provides female entrepreneurs with the skills, networks, and resources to make their businesses successful. However, in developing and emerging economies, there is a low percentage of highly educated female entrepreneurs.
    Source: Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI) report, The Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index
  7. In Indonesia, 48,000 girls received technical and vocational training in computer science, business, and tourism and hospitality courses. Data from 40 model schools show that of the 10,142 female students who graduated in 2011, 41% were employed and 12% started their own businesses.
    Source: ADB publication Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Operational Plan, 2013-2020
  8. An estimated 42% of the loans made by the 14 microfinance institutions receiving funds under ADB's microfinance project in Tajikistan were provided to women, enabling them to engage in entrepreneurial activities, increase their incomes, and broaden their income sources.
    Source: ADB completion report Microfinance Systems Development Program in Tajikistan, 2009
  9. The ADB Country Gender Assessment for China also suggests that women find it harder to get credit except where microcredit institutions specifically target women. When they do get these loans, they have higher success rates than men for their activities and for repayments.
    Source: ADB report People's Republic of China Country Gender Assessment
  10. ADB recently completed two projects that provided many Kyrgyz women in rural villages with training and support for building small enterprises, thus enabling them to improve their skills, become more productive, earn higher incomes, and gain greater confidence.
    Source: ADB web feature A Story Within a Story: ADB Helps Rural Women in the Kyrgyz Republic Become Entrepreneurs.
  11. ADB is exploring opportunities for direct investment in the area of business development services for women entrepreneurs and financial services and access to credit to help narrow gender disparities.
    Source: ADB publication Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Operational Plan, 2013-2020