Public sector fairer to women than private

National 2 minutes, 39 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

BRUNEIAN women have fair access to jobs across the sultanate, but in the private sector, men generally get better pay, a university lecturer yesterday said.

Brunei yesterday joined worldwide celebrations marking the International Women's Day.

According to the Department of Economic Planning and Development, the percentage of women in the Bruneian workforce has grown substantially to 59 per cent in 2006 from just 20 per cent in 1971.

In an interview with The Brunei Times Dr Joyce Teo Siew Yean, Deputy Dean, Postgraduate Studies, Research and Development at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, said that generally, Brunei does not have gender wage bias issues.

"Gender wage gap hardly exists in the public sector due to the uniformed pay scale," she said.

Not so in the private sector, she said, men on average earn 28 per cent morein all occupations.

"The gender earnings gap in the private sector could be a result of over-representation in some occupational groupings such as clerical and retail workers," she said.

But Dr Joyce said research shows there is no rigid occupational segregation in the Bruneian labour market. "Yet, concern exists within the country that the local workforce needs to play a greater role in National Development Plans, through reversing the trend of using expatriate labour ... This necessarily means an extended role for women given their importance in the workforce."

In Brunei, women would benefit more from a more equitable jobs distribution, suggesting that the government needs to address issues like giving women better access to non-traditional occupations.

"Women constitute a strong labour force, which need to be mobilised and encouraged to make an effective contribution to the development of the county," the UBD lecturer said.

It is vital that females are encouraged to progress up the hierarchy of occupations as their male counterparts, "otherwise they might not invest in education and training sufficiently," she added.

In a report to mark the International Women's Day, the International Labour Organisation said that in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, women are currently seen to shift gradually into higher salaried jobs. The gender gap is also more narrow, where there are 73 women for every 100 men in the labour market.

With more young women opting to enter and stay in school, it has resulted in the decrease of young women in the employment-to-population ratio in this region, the report stated.

A worrying trend however is the rate of unemployment that is apparent not just in this region, but globally. Regionally, Indonesia posted the highest number of unemployed women.

Though there has been a high rise in the number of women in salaried work, the region also has the second largest share of women working as unpaid family workers.

According to the report, the move from agricultural employment is slower than in other Asian regions (although still sizeable). The overall increase in employment in services is being driven by women, who now account for 40.3 per cent of the services sector workforce.

Gender inequality is less of a challenge, but some trends need to be carefully watched, particularly women unemployment rates, which are increasing faster than men, according to the report.

The Brunei Times