Diverse Asia: Observing
Asia's gender pension disparities
In the latest in our series of Diverse Asia articles, Manulife Investment Management explores the gender-related challenges and opportunities found within Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan. The content has been developed with insight and research from our proprietary data as well as the Sau Po Centre on Ageing at “HKU”.
We’ve noted the impact that marriage and childbearing can have on women’s wealth accumulation, but what about other family responsibilities? And do gender-based health issues—such as women outliving men or having shorter healthy life expectancy—create greater challenges for women to fulfil their care needs?
An example from Taiwan shows how gender inequality can result in later-life disparities. In 2020, the average healthy life expectancy of Taiwanese people was 84.7 years for women and 78.1 years for men, meaning women outlive men by 6 to 7 years. However, living longer doesn’t mean living longer and healthier. In fact, the average unhealthy life expectancy was 9.39 years for women and 7.64 years for men. In most of our observed markets, although women tend to live longer than men, they have higher morbidity rates and suffer from a diminished quality of life. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that in Taiwan, statistics show that more women than men are using long-term care services.
Caregiving for older adults is also a predominantly women-centred issue and another reason for economic gender disparity. For example, in Hong Kong, caregiving responsibilities are largely shouldered by women, which often results in women dropping out of the workforce and facing increased care costs without income.
Inequality is a life course-perpetuating problem; therefore, to break up consistent patterns of inequality, we need to consider how failing to address causes early on can lead to lifelong and life-changing deprivations. For example, children who lack access to education early in life may be forced to resort to informal work or suffer periods of unemployment, which can lead to the disruption of wealth accumulation and an impoverished old age. Older people may also suffer from illnesses or disabilities brought on by lack of preventive healthcare or medicine or from injuries sustained by physical labour, which could also add to the burden on their retirement income as it decumulates.
Beyond more structural issues, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionally negative effect on women from a health, well-being, and financial perspective.