YANGON, Myanmar — A new census report brings to light extensive data that confirms the disadvantages that women in Myanmar face throughout their lives and in all aspects of society.
“Efforts must be scaled up to advance female economic empowerment and the status of women in society. The contribution and participation by women in the social, political and economic changes that are currently taking place in Myanmar is paramount. Policies and programmes must reflect the needs of women as well as those of men in equal measure, making gender equality an integral part Myanmar’s development”, says Janet Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.
The findings come from the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census _Thematic Report on Gender Dimensions, _published by the Government of Myanmar and UNFPA.
Part of the report focuses on female-headed households. One in four households (23.7 per cent) are headed by women. This proportion increases with the age of the head, and among those aged 65 and over, 42 per cent of households are headed by women. Gender disparities are particularly evident in the areas of marriage. Almost all male heads of households are married (92 per cent), compared to 31 per cent of female household heads. Half of female heads are widowed, reflecting women’s longer life expectancy. The figures highlight both financial vulnerability and lack of companionship of female heads of households.
Female-headed households have less access to motorized vehicles and modern communications such as televisions, radios and mobile phones than male-headed households. The findings reveal continued gendered division in areas such as access to information and services. However, a higher proportion of female-headed households live in homes that are built from more durable materials, and which have access to safe drinking water and a hygienic toilet or latrine. While this could suggest that households headed by women are not poorer than households headed by men, these variations may also relate to the differences of urban and rural dwellings – there is a higher proportion of female-headed households in urban areas (28 per cent) compared to rural areas (22 per cent).
Another aspect of gender inequality is the fact that adolescent girls are more likely to marry at an earlier age than boys. Almost 300,000 teenage girls in Myanmar are already married, compared to just over 100,000 boys. Some 89,000 teenage girls have already given birth.
“Girls need to know their choices. Marriage, childbirth and parenthood affect their futures. Myanmar needs gender and sex education in schools and community programmes that encourage girls to pursue their aspirations, and that help them choose for themselves when they want to get married and when they want to have children”, says Janet Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.
Adult illiteracy is higher for women (13 per cent) than for men (7 per cent), and it increases with age, especially for women. This calls for an expansion of alternative, flexible and affordable adult literacy programmes with a particular focus on women. Gender disparities in current school attendance, however, are minimal in Myanmar, except for ages 15-20, with a lower attendance of boys. In addition, a higher proportion of women have graduate and postgraduate degrees.
Gender differences are much more pronounced in the labour market than in education. For example, 73 per cent of professionals are women. Most of these are teachers – 80 per cent of professionals in the education sector are women. In contrast, over 90 per cent of plant and machine operators are men, reflecting an inherent cultural stereotyping. As has been shown in previous census reports, only half of women (50.5 per cent) are in the labour force, compared to 85.6 per cent of men. Over three quarters of economically inactive women are engaged in unpaid household work.
“Doors must be opened for women to enter the labour market and to contribute more to Myanmar’s economic development. In practical terms, both the Government and the private sector could introduce services which help ensure that childrearing does not adversely affect women’s access to waged employment”, says Janet Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.
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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
Notes to Editors
The census project
The main results of the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census were published in May 2015. This thematic report is part of a series of thematic reports on diverse topics. The thematic reports contain new data as well as previously released data which have been statistically adjusted for higher accuracy. The reports analyse the relationship between different data, and shed light on what the numbers tell us about the lives of people in Myanmar. The census was conducted by the Government of Myanmar. UNFPA has provided, and continues to provide, technical and financial support towards the census.
An estimated 1,090,000 people who wished to self-identify as Rohingya were not enumerated in the census. UNFPA recognizes their non-enumeration as a serious shortcoming of the census and a grave human rights concern, and regards it as critical that all rights are restored as soon as possible. An estimated 69,700 people in Kayin State and 46,600 people in Kachin State were also not enumerated. In total, an estimated 1.2 million people were not enumerated in the census. These estimated 1.2 million people were included in the total population count of 51.5 million. However, since data on characteristics is not available for the people who were not enumerated, the data and analysis presented in this report covers only those enumerated during the census.
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