When asked on preferences for women’s participation in the labour force, women and men in the Asia–Pacific region are mostly aligned, although variations exist across sub-regions. In all sub-regions and countries, a majority of both women and men show a preference for female labour force participation, with women in paid work either as a sole activity or in combination with unpaid work to care for the household.
But not all agree, and except in South Asia, the stated preference that women stay at home to care for the household as a sole activity was more prevalent among men than women. The largest gap between men and women in the preference for women to stay at home was in the South-East Asia and the Pacific subregion (36 per cent of men compared to 23 per cent of women). Yet overall, it was women in South Asia that showed the strongest preference for women to remain outside the labour market. Two in five women (44 per cent) expressed this view, which is higher than the share of men expressing the same preference in the subregion.
The ILO report, Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men (2016), provides a detailed examination of attitudes and perceptions regarding women working based on the first-ever global survey implemented by Gallup. In the Asia–Pacific region, the countries showing the largest gender gaps in opinion regarding women’s work were in Cambodia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Thailand.