An innovative study investigating the correlation between aging parents’ long-term care needs and women’s economic participation wins the 2021 APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Research Prize.
Announced during the APEC Women and the Economy Forum last Friday, the study found that among all family members, women are usually the primary caregivers of aging parents. This affects women’s labor force participation and income stream.
“We found that labor force participation decreases substantially as a result of caregiving needs for married women and women who have children,” said Chen-Wei Hsiang of Chinese Taipei, the co-author of the winning study who is currently pursuing his PhD at University College London.
“Our research suggests that caregiving demands can have longer-term impacts on women’s economic prospects, making it more difficult for them to re-enter the workforce,” Hsiang added. “Economies’ long-term care policies should be better targeted to help women’s economic participation.”
Hsiang co-authored the study with Dr Ming-Jen Lin of National Taiwan University and Dr Kuan-Ming Chen of the United States’ National Bureau of Economic Research. Their study recommends that policymakers take into account women’s responsibility in providing long-term care for their parents and develop policies that can ease the burden or facilitate caregiving services.
According to an APEC policy brief, the pandemic has exacerbated the caregiving burden on women and has directly affected their employment situation. Additionally, care work continues to be undervalued despite its essential role.
“Unpaid care work, which disproportionately falls on women’s shoulders, is vital for societies to function,” said Renee Graham, Chair of APEC’s Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy. “If we are to build back better and build back more inclusively, we must find ways to support the women who perform the majority of this labor—often without recognition or full appreciation for the important work they are doing.”
Dr Ying Yang of China and Nurliyana Binte Daros of Singapore were the runners up for this year’s prize.
Dr Yang’s research explored ways to alter the screening and intervention window periods of thyroid function in pregnant women, and recommended advancing both procedures to pre-pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of complications resulting from maternal thyroid dysfunction.
Nurliyana’s research focused on the experiences of illness and complications related to type-two diabetes in low-income women, and the importance of coordinating care between health and social workers and removing such barriers.
The APEC Healthy Women Healthy Economies Research Prize aims to spotlight and spur the creation of sex-disaggregated data and is supported by Merck. The winning entry receives USD 20,000 and the two runners-up receive USD 5,000 each.
“In order to help women across the APEC region reach their full economic potential, the unpaid care gap must be recognized as a major barrier to women’s economic empowerment,” said Liz Henderson, Regional Vice President, Merck Biopharma Asia Pacific. “Developing the policy tools that can help us address the unpaid care gap will require the perspectives of diverse stakeholders, whom we look forward to continue convening via APEC Healthy Women, Healthy Economies.”
The Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative aims to improve women’s health and economic empowerment through public-private partnerships. Published in 2015, the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies Policy Toolkit highlights five areas for improving women’s health across five areas: workplace health and safety; health awareness and access; sexual and reproductive health; gender-based violence; and work/life balance.