Digital solutions can raise women’s workforce roles

Authors: Timothy Watson and Michelle Le, ANU, and Michael Corliss, University of Canberra

The digital economy is expanding rapidly in Asia, boosting growth and economic opportunities at a time of otherwise disappointing global productivity growth. How then does the digital economy affect opportunities for women to participate in the workforce?

Women listen as a Samsung employee provides instructions on using their new Galaxy smartphones in Jakarta, 11 April 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta).

Between 2000 and 2016 internet users in Asian countries increased from around 6 per cent to almost 54 per cent of the population. This was driven largely by mobile phone penetration, which increased from around 13 subscriptions per 100 people in 2000 to 129 subscriptions per 100 people in 2016. At the same time women’s workforce participation increased across the region, with the average participation rate rising from around 45 per cent of the female population in 2000 to 46.9 per cent in 2016.

Perhaps unsurprisingly we find a significant positive association between internet use and women’s workforce participation. Indeed, our most conservative estimate suggests that growth in internet use can account for an amount equivalent to all of the increase in women’s workforce participation in Asia between 2000 and 2016. However, this result does not necessarily imply that internet use is the cause of increased participation. Some of the increase in internet use in the region is potentially driven by greater levels of women’s workforce …continue reading