Micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) provide the backbone of most countries’ economies, representing about 90 percent of firms and more than 50 percent of employment worldwide. Formal MSMEs contribute up to 40 percent of GDP in emerging nations, making them crucial to speeding the accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). For this reason, the United Nations General Assembly has named June 27 as MSMEs Day to honor the contributions of these firms.
Entrepreneurship is key to a vibrant MSME sector because it spawns new enterprises, which create jobs, increase competition, innovates, and boost productivity. Investing in women and diverse entrepreneurs is key to inclusive and sustained recovery and development in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As East and South Asia remain the most active regions with growing influence on the international economy, a brief overview of female entrepreneurial activities in Bhutan and Vietnam will help promote critical structural reforms in the economy to become more gender friendly.
Bhutan and Vietnam have comparable landscapes, cultures, and people and are among the fastest developing economies in East and South Asia. MSMEs in these countries are owned by many women, however, these companies are very small and informal in nature which makes their ventures risky during a pandemic or any other calamities.
In Vietnam, women-owned enterprises were 80% more affected than male-owned businesses (60%). The epidemic exacerbated women’s narrow networks, legal obstacles, restricted access to technology, and reduced time for study owing to work-family conflict. Women entrepreneurs are overrepresented in the economic base and in MSMEs.
What do we need?
- Education at the primary level
- Vocational skills development
- Financial support to women entrepreneurs
- Favorable policies to support women and their families
- Affordable housing and healthcare for all