Taking Ownership: Better Data is Needed on Women’s Assets in Asia

Women who own their own businesses, including small enterprises, are noteworthy contributors to a country's economic growth and ability to reduce poverty. Photo: ADB
Women who own their own businesses, including small enterprises, are noteworthy contributors to a country's economic growth and ability to reduce poverty. Photo: ADB

By Kaushal Joshi, Mildred Addawe, Arturo Martinez

Collecting sex-disaggregated data on asset ownership is an important step in achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls in Asia and the Pacific.

Entrepreneurship and asset ownership among women can be a powerful driver of economic growth and poverty reduction. It can also improve the education, health and nutrition of children.

Despite this, in Asia and the Pacific, and in many parts of the world, it is believed that women are less likely to own businesses and productive assets such as homes and land. But what percentage of women in society own and control these vital assets in comparison to men, and how do governments form policies that give women a fair chance?

It is difficult to answer these questions based on the data that is now gathered on asset ownership and entrepreneurship in most countries in the region. That is because the data collected on this issue is not separated by gender – referred to as “sex-disaggregated data”.

To address this issue, ADB in collaboration the United Nations Statistics Divisions and the national statistics offices of Georgia, Mongolia and the Philippines, implemented pilot household surveys to support Evidence and Data for Gender Equality project aimed at developing methods for collecting data on ownership of assets and entrepreneurship from a gender perspective. The pilot surveys conducted in Georgia and Mongolia were nationally representative, whereas the survey in the Philippines was piloted in the province of Cavite. The pilot surveys’ coverage was restricted to the ownership of nonagricultural enterprises only. As such the results on entrepreneurship below relate only to the ownership and control of the nonagricultural enterprises by men and women.

The Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) pilot surveys provided richer metrics of individual-level data on asset and enterprise ownership with gender components than conventional data sources.

This piece on entrepreneurship is a continuation of an earlier blog where we previously examined the assets held by women relative to that of men, drawing from the findings of the EDGE surveys.

  What assets do women own in Georgia, Mongolia and the Philippines?

The EDGE pilot surveys reveal many interesting facts about women’s and men’s enterprise ownership in the three pilot countries. Entrepreneurship was the main activity for 10.4% of adult men and 13.9% of adult women in Cavite; 9.9% of adult men and 7.5% of adult women in Mongolia; and 6.5% of adult men and 2.6% of adult women in Georgia.

The incidence of entrepreneurial activity (per 100 adult men and per 100 adult women) is relatively more prevalent in Cavite and least prevalent in Georgia. The gender gap in entrepreneurship is more pronounced in Georgia, where men are 1.8 times as likely as women to own nonagricultural enterprises, and in Mongolia, where the disparity is slightly lower, at 1.3 times. The gender gap, on the other hand, is reversed in Cavite, where women are 1.3 times more likely as men to own nonagricultural enterprises.

Regarding forms of ownership of nonagricultural enterprise, exclusive male ownership, wherein men solely owned the enterprise, is the most common form in Georgia and Mongolia. In contrast, exclusive female ownership is more predominant than exclusive male ownership in Cavite; although principal couple ownership is the most predominant in this area. In general, gender disparity in exclusive ownership is highest in Georgia where men are 1.8 times more likely to be exclusive owners of enterprise than women.

The survey also collected data on alienation rights (right to sell and right to bequeath) from the owners of nonagricultural enterprises. Compared to female owners, more male owners in Georgia and Mongolia report having the exclusive alienation rights to sell or bequeath the enterprise. Meanwhile, a larger proportion of female owners than male owners reported that they do not have the right to sell or bequeath the enterprise they reported as owned. The gender gap in having no alienation rights is highest in Georgia, where about three-fourths of female owners report that they do not have the right to sell or bequeath their business.

In Georgia and Cavite, women entrepreneurs are equally likely as men entrepreneurs to manage day-to-day operations; and provide services and/or produce goods for the enterprise. However, in Cavite, a significant proportion of women enterprise owners have greater financial control than men enterprise owners.

In Georgia and Mongolia, women spend less time in their business than their male counterparts as observed by a higher percentage of women compared to men working for less than 20 hours a week on their enterprise. In Cavite, there is no substantial difference in the proportion of male and female entrepreneurs working for 40 or longer hours per week.

  How do the economic activities of men and women differ in Asia and the Pacific?

Women-owned enterprises tend to have smaller size and operations than men-owned enterprises and are concentrated in a limited range of economic activities. The majority of entrepreneurs in the three countries are own-account workers, i.e., those with no paid workers but probably employing (unpaid) contributing family workers. However, the proportion of women entrepreneurs without employees is generally higher as compared to men owners.

Wholesale and retail trade is the most common activity for women enterprise owners in Mongolia and Cavite while manufacturing is the most dominant sector for women enterprise owners in Georgia. In addition to wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing; transportation and storage and construction are also important industries for men enterprise owners.

Incidence of Ownership of Nonagricultural Enterprises by Sex (%)

In terms of mode of acquisition, most of the men and women owners of enterprises have either founded or purchased the enterprise and no substantial difference is observed between sexes. Among the other modes of acquisition, in Georgia, ownership of enterprise by way of marital law/ custom, and allocation or gift from household and non-household members are slightly biased toward women, while in Cavite, inheritance as mode of acquisition of enterprise is biased toward men.

The majority of the enterprise-founding owners in the three countries use their own household savings in business start-ups. In Georgia and Cavite, more women than men use their private household funds. In Mongolia, commercial or development banks also play an important role in financing both men- and women-led enterprises.

The patterns and determinants of nonagricultural enterprise ownership illustrate that gender disparity is more evident in Georgia and Mongolia. Meanwhile, women in Cavite either have greater advantage or have similar ownership rights as men. Women-owned enterprises are, in general, small in scale, concentrated largely in the trade sector, and established directly using own funds.

The EDGE pilot surveys demonstrate that with the availability of standardized methods and guidelines, collecting sex-disaggregated data on asset ownership is feasible. Producing this type of data is an important step in achieving gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, which is one of the ambitious goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.