While discussing the implications of the global economic crisis on women, as well as the opportunities for growth it may yield, Vietnamese and foreign experts recommended that prioritised policies be put in place to support women to overcome difficulties in times of crisis and continue to work towards gender equality.

The experts gathered at a national conference “From Crisis to Growth: Implications and Opportunity for Women” in Hanoi on August 5. The conference aimed to seek experiences and recommendations on solutions to mitigate the vulnerability of women in the face of the global economic crisis, and push up the advancement of women, particularly those who are most at risk.

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), women accounted for 31 percent of 107,200 people who lost jobs in the first six months of the year.

However, experts say this statistic fails to fully reflect the reality, as the majority of women were employed to work without a written contract.

Truong Thi Mai, Chairwoman of the National Assembly’s Committee for Social Affairs, pointed out that women working simple and unskilled jobs have been more likely to lose their jobs during the economic crisis than their well-trained peers.

That being the case, unemployment and reduced-income has weighed more heavily on those women who were already at a disadvantage economically, but who play the key role in caring families and children. Such impacts have also affected women more than men due to the inequality they have long endured in the fields of education, decision-making and access to social services and policies.

“It is necessary to formulate short-term measures, such as the provision of unemployment subsidies and vocational re-training for women in order to enable them to rejoin the labour market,” Mai said.

She also called for the creation of a gender database to work as a foundation for relevant agencies in making policies and to continue advancing towards gender equality goals.

For Vice Head of the MoLISA’s Department for Gender Equality, Pham Nguyen Cuong, women should be helped to improve their working skills and gaining a livelihood. Women are overburdened and should be provided with a more favourable environment as they endeavour to lighten their load.

She also voiced the need to change society’s awareness on gender equality as crucial to curbing difficulties for women, especially those living in rural and remote areas.

Present at the conference, UNDP Resident Coordinator John Hendra, agreed that “the crisis is having a real social impact on people, especially on women.”

He stressed, “In fact, it’s no accident that women are among the hardest hit in times of crisis. Such events often exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, including gender inequality, stemming from women’s unequal access to resources, opportunities and decision-making.”

The UNDP official urged the Vietnamese Government to continue its impressive performance towards the Millennium Development Goals.

According to the UN, closing development gaps between men and women is not only essential to ensuring human rights, but benefits the country economically and socially.

The conference was jointly organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the UN Development Programme, the MoLISA, and the UN Development Fund for Women.

The event is one of activities being held in conjunction with 2009 World Population Day, under the theme “Responding to the Economic Crisis: Investing in Women is a Smart Choice.”

Women account for about 51 percent of Vietnam ’s population and 49 percent of the country’s workforce./.