One of the major concerns for women regarding the future of work is how they will fare in the changing world of work when technological disruptions unfold and impact the nature of jobs, as well as the skill requirements for those jobs. Technology by itself is not empowering. It needs to be linked to broader policy interventions.
A group of feminist researchers from throughout the Asia-Pacific region met in Singapore to think of ways to address the digital and skills-divide in Asia and how emerging technologies from artificial intelligence (AI) to automation affect women’s opportunities.
As part of the FES regional project “Women and the Future of Work in Asia”, the group has chosen to look at ways towards an inclusive digital economy. “The advent of emerging technologies, automation and gig platforms is going to have a long-term impact on several sectors that are very critical for women's labour force participation. It will lead to job losses and gains, as well as shifts in tasks and skills requirements. We aim to investigate these changes and look into how to mitigate adverse impact on women's work", Ambika Tandon from the Centre for Internet and Society in India says about her group’s discussions.
The digital economy working group will get together again with their peers looking into the future of the care economy at the FES Asia Care Summit, to be held in the spring of 2020 in Kathmandu, Nepal to further advance their project. In June 2020, both groups are set to meet in Singapore for the concluding FES Asia Digital Economy Summit.
Digitalization can create opportunities for women, such as accessing services or business opportunities from remote areas. But when it comes to women as workers, technology is often exacerbating existing inequalities. “The platform economy is nascent in Bangladesh, but women are largely excluded from it. In some cases, it is replicating existing inequalities women face in public life. For example, the lack of safety is preventing women from being employed in ridesharing or delivery services”, Farzana Nawaz, working group member from Bangladesh explains.
There is a digital divide across the word, in Asia and within societies and between genders. Women’s equal and meaningful access to the digital economy is an integral part of the realization of women’s full participation in the future of work and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) around gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2030.
At the panel on digital justice, guest speakers Amrita Gurumurthy (IT for Change, India), Farzana Nawaz (C&A Foundation, Bangladesh) and Miriam Meckel (ada, Germany) discussed how bridging the gap in access to digital tools and skills is important, but not enough. It needs to happen in the context of the removal of discriminatory barriers, change in social perceptions about gender and within policy frameworks and means of accountability.
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