Since 2009, the OECD Development Centre has exposed structural barriers affecting women’s and girls’ lives in developing and developed countries with the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). By taking into account formal and informal laws, social norms and practices, the SIGI captures the underlying drivers of gender inequality across 179 countries, with the aim of promoting gender-transformative policies that stem from data and evidence. It also serves as an official data source for monitoring Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 5.1.1.

Based on data and evidence from the fifth edition of the SIGI, released in 2023, the SIGI 2024 Regional Report for Southeast Asia: Time to Care provides a fresh analysis of the setbacks in and progress towards gender equality since the fourth edition and the last report for the region, in 2021. The regional analysis stresses how discriminatory social institutions curtail girls’ and women’s rights and opportunities in all aspects of their lives, starting within the family, and emphasises how such discrimination spills over into the economic and public spheres, for example in terms of citizenship rights or in the workplace.

For the first time, the Southeast Asia report explores the specific roles played by the region's complex legal landscape and by the multiple personal status laws. It also underscores how social norms governing gender roles and responsibilities became more restrictive in Southeast Asia between 2014 and 2022. Building on this evidence, the report calls for a transformative shift in terms of gender roles and provides policy recommendations that aim to reshape social norms, promote women’s empowerment and build a truly inclusive society.

Through a specific thematic focus on care, the report illustrates how views on gender roles lead to a care system that primarily relies on women’s unpaid work. It places the analysis in the wider context of Southeast Asia's ongoing demographic, educational and economic transitions, revealing that countries will face a growing demand for paid formal care services, a demand for which most of them remain largely unprepared. The analysis highlights the benefits that the development of formal care sectors could bring to Southeast Asia’s societies in terms of women's economic empowerment and resilience while stressing three main challenges: labour informality, limited social protection systems and the weight of social norms.

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