Southeast Asia’s women world’s most resilient entrepreneurs

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 17:55

Dropping one place since 2020, Viet Nam comes in at 38, while Thailand is amongst the top 20 economies globally, offering the most supportive entrepreneurial conditions for women. — Photo courtesy of Mastercard

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic having a disproportionate impact on women entrepreneurs worldwide, especially those in the developing economies, women are demonstrating the resilience to succeed against the odds, according to a recent Mastercard study.

The study revealed that women in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines and Viet Nam, have fared particularly well in making entrepreneurial progress, despite significant social-cultural and infrastructural barriers threatening to impede their growth.

Lack of government SME support, poor access to entrepreneurial finances, and a severe lack of education opportunities remain the major constraints to advancing women’s entrepreneurship in Asia’s lower-middle-income economies.

Encompassing 65 economies and 82.4 per cent of the global female labour force, the fifth edition of Mastercard’s Index for Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) examined women’s progress in the global entrepreneurship landscape over the last two years.

The findings reveal that despite worldwide efforts to mitigate the pandemic’s effects, women have experienced considerable economic and social implications. As a result, the expected time to overcome the worldwide gender gap may be extended by another 36 years.

Six economies from the Asia-Pacific region have found their place on MIWE 2021’s global leaderboard for being the best places in the world for women entrepreneurs. New Zealand, Australia, and Taiwan have emerged as the regional leaders, propelled by strong scores across all three components that constitute MIWE: women’s advancement outcomes, knowledge assets, and financial access.

These economies continue to furnish the conditions required to facilitate women’s access to financial support and services and their ability to start, operate, thrive, and adapt to the market circumstances.

MIWE’s 2021 index has also revealed an encouraging trend for women’s entrepreneurship in Southeast Asian economies such as Thailand, Indonesia, Viet Nam, and the Philippines. Women in these economies were seen engaging in high levels of entrepreneurship, sometimes at parity with men, even though the environment in which they operate remains entrenched with challenges.

The resilience of women in the Philippines is noted to be particularly outstanding. Despite the comparatively lower participation of women in the workforce, the Philippines remained a global leader for the third consecutive year in component A of the report (women’s advancement outcomes) and are just as driven by opportunity as women in highly business conducive environments. Women in the Philipinnes are joined by women in Thailand and Viet Nam, who also performed strongly in component A, ranking 4 and 11, respectively.

“In Viet Nam, the pandemic has had an adverse impact on women’s lives and livelihoods. Yet, women have shown strength and endurance and strong aspirations towards entrepreneurship, with Viet Nam having one of the highest female labour-force participation rates (69.3 per cent) in the world. The local women entrepreneurs exhibit will and determination to overcome obstacles and are driven by good business opportunities,” said Winnie Wong, Country Manager, Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos, Mastercard.

The MIWE also points to the pandemic being particularly taxing on women. Fewer than 10 per cent of COVID-19 recovery measures implemented worldwide include gender-sensitive strategies. In economies such as Canada and Argentina, gender-focused policies implemented to address women’s economic security during the pandemic have positively influenced women's progress. — VNS

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