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Report: ASEAN women are a potential boost to the region’s labour force and economy

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The women of ASEAN already contribute significantly to the ASEAN economies. Yet many obstacles remain which must be removed to ensure their equal participation in and benefit from ASEAN economic growth and development.

This was one of the main findings of the research report on the Projected Gender Impact of the ASEAN Economic Community, undertaken by the ASEAN Secretariat, UN Women and the German political foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) with the support of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Economic growth across the 10 Member States has averaged 5 per cent a year, and the job market for the population of 622 million is estimated to be worth USD 2.6 trillion dollars annually. But women’s lack of equal opportunities costed the region’s economies an estimated 18 per cent of GDP, or almost half a billion dollars in 2015. ASEAN economies have “potentially vast numbers of skilled and unskilled female workers that are not being fully included,” said Adrienne Woltersdorf, Director of the FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia. “Economies pay a price for keeping women out.”

Despite legislation on equal opportunities in every ASEAN country, women spend fewer years in school and have fewer jobs in high-value roles or sectors. They also do much more unpaid work, and have limited access to formal credit. In many ASEAN countries, traditions and customs further limit opportunities.

“Women workers play a critical role in ASEAN, making significant economic contributions to their families, communities and societies,” said Roberta Clarke, Regional Director of UN Women Asia and the Pacific and Representative in Thailand. “However, our study shows that women also suffer from specific and deeply gendered inequalities.”

Each barrier to women’s empowerment is “a missed opportunity for development and economic growth,” said Simon Merrifield, Australian Ambassador to ASEAN.

Much more needs to be done if women are to enjoy equality and participate in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Progress on girls’ participation in school must continue, but it is also important to ensure the enabling environment for women in the labour force, for example through the provision of better childcare and parental leave, the study found. Role models and mentorship programmes can also help shift gender norms.

Without targeted measures, such as access to credit, technology and non-traditional vocational training and education, the potential of the AEC for women’s empowerment may not be realized. The changes required are not only in the market and the economy but also the private sphere. “It is our hope that this study will encourage ASEAN Member States to adopt strategies that will address inequalities that inhibit women’s full participation in the economy,” said Emmeline L. Verzosa, Executive Director of the Philippine Commission on Women and Chair of the ASEAN Committee on Women. “One way is through the recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work.”

The study makes a number of recommendations aimed at increasing women’s share in the regional and national trade and national income. This, Clarke said, is a win-win strategy for women’s rights, the society, economy, private businesses and individuals.

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EU Politics

PES Europe Ministers call for a European Budget that rises to the challenge

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President of FEPS Maria João Rodrigues MEP, First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, and Germans Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth photo: PES

Europe needs ambitious short- and long-term planning, the Ministers of European Affairs from the PES agreed today during their discussion of the European budget for 2021-2027.

The chair of the network, German Minister for Europe Michael Roth, called for a European budget that promotes social wellbeing, innovation and sustainability across Europe.

Roth said:“The fundamental role of the European budget is to ensure cohesion, convergence and growth. It is the main tool Europe has to invest in the future, to bring countries closer together, and to make sure our children and grandchildren have a good life. When negotiating the European Budget both the short and long term must be kept in mind. Our ambition today, shapes the Europe of tomorrow. I want a bright Europe for tomorrow.”

The Ministers continued their discussion on the state of the rule of law in Europe.

Roth added:“Democracy and the rule of law cannot be interpreted freely. All Member States have to abide to the same clear set of rules. We will continue keeping a close eye on the issue. And we will continue supporting the great work that the EU Commission’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans is carrying out.”

The meeting was attended by:

  • Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, Chair, Germany
  • Helena Dalli, Minister for European Affairs and Equality, Malta
  • Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs, Portugal
  • Hans Dahlgren, Minister for EU Affairs, Sweden
  • Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, European Commission
  • George Katrougalos, Foreign Affairs Ministers, Greece (observer)
  • Maria Joao Rodrigues, Vice President of the S&D Group, chair of the PES FEN Network, European Parliament
  • Javier Moreno, Secretary General of the S&D Group, European Parliament
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EU Politics

Migration and asylum: EU funds to promote integration and protect borders

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MEPs backed on Tuesday increasing the EU budget for migration and asylum policies and to reinforce borders.

The Civil Liberties Committee endorsed the renewed Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), the 2021-2027 budget of which will increase up to €9.2 billion (€10.41 billion in current prices, 51% more than in the previous financial framework). It also backed the creation of a new Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) and agreed to allocate €7.1 billion (€8 billion in current prices) to it.

The AMIF should contribute to strengthen the common asylum policy, develop legal migration, in line with the member states’ economic and social needs, contribute to countering irregular migration and ensure effective, safe and dignified return, readmission and reintegration in non-EU countries.

But it should also ensure “solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility between the member states, in particular towards those most affected by migration challenges, including through practical cooperation”, MEPs state.

MEPs also want to make sure that funds can be allocated to local and regional authorities, and to international and non‑governmental organisations, working in the field of asylum and migration.

Integrated Border Management Fund to secure EU’s external borders

IBMF will provide funding to build and enhance member states’ capacities in border management and visa policy. The funding dedicated to member states (60 % of the total envelope) will reflect their needs and take into account additional pressures. Furthermore, a new EU thematic facility (40% of the total envelope) will ensure flexibility to channel emergency funding to member states and EU-level projects when urgent action is needed.

MEPs also added safeguards to ensure that actions and measures funded through the Instrument comply with the EU’s fundamental rights obligations, in particular with the principles of non-discrimination and non-refoulement.

Both funds will operate in full synergy. They will also work closely with the reinforced Internal Security Fund (ISF) focusing on tackling terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime.

Next steps

The draft proposal on the renewed AMIF passed with 31 votes to 23 and 1 abstention. The new IBMF was backed by 41 MEPs, 9 voted against and 2 abstained. The full House will have to confirm its position in the first March plenary, ahead of the negotiations with the Council of the EU.

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EU Politics

Trade negotiations with US can start under certain conditions

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The Trade Committee on Tuesday endorsed the mandate to start limited EU-US trade talks, but set conditions on the conclusion of a deal.

Starting talks is in the interest of European citizens and companies, as it would ease current tensions in EU-US trade relations, brought about by the US administration’s actions, said International Trade Committee MEPs in the report adopted by 21 votes to 17, with one abstention.

They nevertheless note that the conclusion of a trade agreement based on the current negotiating mandate can only be successful if the following conditions are met:

  • the US must lift tariffs on aluminium and steel;
  • a comprehensive consultation process with civil society and a sustainability impact assessment are carried out;
  • the EU insists on including cars and car tariffs in the talks, and on excluding agriculture;
  • talks will be suspended if the US levies another tariff;
  • more clarity on how rules of origin (which lock in how much of the value of a product must be created locally for trade preferences) are handled during the talks.

Background

The European Commission submitted its draft negotiating mandates to the Council for approval on 18 January. The mandates will authorise the Commission to negotiate with the US on eliminating tariffs on industrial goods and on harmonising conformity assessment.

Next steps

Parliament will vote on its stance on the mandates in March. EU Council of Ministers is expected to adopt the draft negotiating mandates in the same month. The Commission will start negotiations on the basis of the final mandate.

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