Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP150918: Australia's Head of Delegation’s Statement - APEC High Level Policy Dialogue Women and The Economy

APEC High Level Policy Dialogue
Women and The Economy
Statement of Ambassador Bill Tweddell, Australia's Head of Delegation
18 September 2015
Manila, Philippines

Madam Chair
Heads of Delegation
Distinguished Delegates
APEC Secretariat and
APEC Business Advisory Council Delegation

It is a privilege to attend the APEC Women and the Economy Forum, and to address this high level policy dialogue. I would like to thank our Philippine hosts for their generous hospitality and excellent preparations.

The theme of ‘Women as Prime Movers of Inclusive Growth’ highlights the important role of women in achieving regional growth.

This focus aligns with other international commitments, such as the G20 leaders’ commitment to reduce the gender participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025. This commitment is a policy priority for Australia and one which we are working hard to achieve.

We know progress has been made – but many challenges remain.

I believe this forum has the gravitas, energy and momentum to put into place the actions needed to increase women’s economic participation, to achieve prosperity and to bring about lasting change.

Madam Chair

The unique strength of APEC’s Women and the Economy Forum is that it maximises international collaboration between the public and private sectors to increase women’s economic participation, which is not only good for women, their families and communities, but also vital to economic growth.

APEC has consistently demonstrated the crucial role of bilateral and regional partnerships in supporting each other to meet important outcomes.

APEC’s relevance in this space remains critical and I commend our host for developing the sub-themes for this week’s forum, which show foresight and aspirational focus.

‘Women and Inclusive Business’, ‘Women and the Global Value Chain’ and ‘Women and Sustainable Development’ are a great foundation to further conversation on how we, as APEC economies, will progress women’s economic empowerment.
And progress women’s economic empowerment we must.

It is disappointing that in 2015, the economic participation rate of women is well behind that of men and is under 50 per cent in many APEC economies.

This is such a waste of potential when we know limiting women’s participation in the workforce across the Asia-Pacific region costs the economy an estimated US$ 89 billion every year.

Madam Chair

In the two and a half decades since APEC was established, Australia has forged unprecedented trade links within the region, and we’re entering our 25th consecutive year of growth.

But our economy also faces challenges.

We have an ageing population. We’re facing the challenges of downward pressure on income growth, and the mining investment boom is behind us.

Achieving the economic growth needed to ensure our ongoing prosperity means increasing workforce participation and productivity.

The current level of women’s workforce participation in Australia — 71 per cent — is well behind that of men — which is 83 per cent.

The Australian Government has a vital role to play in boosting women’s participation. But with more than 78 per cent of women employed in the private sector, this is where tangible change will occur.

The Australian Government is working closely with the private sector to create the conditions for business to innovate and help to drive the social change necessary for real progress on women’s economic participation.

Our Government is setting the economic conditions for employment growth.

Our Government is improving the accessibility and affordability of Australia’s child care system.

Our Government is supporting women in small business and encouraging more women entrepreneurs.

Our Government is examining the disincentives to work in the tax and transfer system, and implementing programmes that help women overcome barriers to employment.

And our Government is supporting women to pursue careers in growth industries and to reach senior leadership positions.

Madam Chair

Internationally, Australia maintains a steadfast commitment to be at the forefront of efforts to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, particularly in our own region.

The Australian Government has set a target requiring at least 80 per cent of aid investments, regardless of their objectives, to address gender issues effectively in their implementation.

We value our close cooperation with regional and multilateral organisations to promote women’s economic empowerment. And we are strongly committed to build on our record as an active partner in APEC.

We believe APEC economies have an important role to steer this conversation in a direction where women’s economic empowerment is not a women’s issue, but an economic issue and a cultural issue.

We encourage all economies to make concrete commitments to increase the participation of women in their economy.

The Australian Government also believes that men must become equal partners in progressing a future where there is true gender equality.

Gender equality and the economic empowerment of women is an achievable goal, and engaging men will drive and accelerate the changes needed to achieve it.

Australia is unwavering in our commitment to this.

Thank you and Mabuhay!