14 November 2018

Feminizing the workforce in aging East Asia

Options Winter 2018/19: Increasing the number of highly skilled women in the work force of East Asian countries could alleviate the expected negative economic consequences of population aging in these societies.

 © Hoxuanhuong | Dreamstime

© Hoxuanhuong | Dreamstime

In many countries, low fertility rates and continuous increases in life expectancy are leading to population aging. In Asia, the four advanced economies of Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea are aging particularly rapidly.  

New IIASA research on the future workforce in these societies shows that expected negative economic consequences could be alleviated by including more highly educated women in the workforce. The adoption of progressive policies will play an important role in this process.  

This becomes clear when comparing two scenarios: One in which labor participation rates are kept constant at their 2010 levels over the projected period until 2050, and one in which female participation rates similar to those of Sweden – a role model when it comes to the economic activity levels of women ­– are assumed. In this second scenario, male participation rates are assumed to reach current Japanese levels by 2050, which significantly increases participation rates of older males.

The differences in total labor supply between these two scenarios range from 9% in Japan to 28% in Korea. The majority of the potential gains in workforce are skilled female laborers. If their potential is properly utilized, highly skilled females could account for over 30% of the entire workforce in each society by 2050. This could keep the number of non-working people per working person constant (in Korea and Singapore), or keep the increase at a moderate level (in Hong Kong and Japan).

Text by Melina Filzinger

Further information

Loichinger E & Cheng YA (2018). Feminising the workforce in ageing East Asia? The potential of skilled female labour in four advanced economies. Journal of Population Research

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Last edited: 06 November 2018

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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