Mercer launches education initiative for girls across Asia

16 March 2021 3 min. read
More news on

Mercer has launched of a new education initiative aimed at addressing the impact of Covid-19 on girls’ education in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Global human capital consultancy Mercer has taken the occasion of International Women’s Day to launch a new education initiative for girls across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Dubbed P.A.G.E 150, (‘Powering Asian Girls’ Education’, with a nod to parent company Marsh McLennan’s 150th anniversary), the programme will see Mercer provide 1,500 hours of support across the regions to help address the impact on girls’ education stemming from Covid-19.

According to UNICEF figures cited by the firm, some 40 million girls in East Asia and the Pacific have been unable to study through distance learning during the pandemic, while over two thirds have reported a reduction in their learning. Of particular concern is the threat of permanent drop-outs arising from the widespread school closures, with female early school-leavers shown to suffer from a range of adverse social and economic impacts throughout their lives.

Mercer launches education initiative for girls across Asia

The impact of premature departures from education not only include the personal financial costs – World Bank studies have found that a single year of additional schooling can equate to an up to 20 percent increase in wages for women – but also puts young women at greater risk of exposure to violence, forced marriage, and adolescent pregnancy. UNICEF believes that close to three million girls in South and West Asia might not return to school due to Covid-19's disruption.

“Research has shown that when a girl’s education is cut short, the impact is felt for generations,” said Renee McGowan, who was recently appointed President of Mercer’s AMEA (Asia, Middle East, and Africa) region. “Through education, they earn higher incomes and build better futures for themselves and their families. Girls’ education strengthens economies and societies, giving everyone – including boys and men – the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”

In order to deliver the greatest impact, Mercer will direct its volunteer hours over the next 12 months toward supporting existing social enterprises that work to improve access to education for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, with many such organisations also hit hard by the pandemic in terms of funding and personnel. “This could hurt their operations, staffing and growth prospects,” McGowan said of the decrease in donations and volunteer workers over the past year.

“By supporting them the best way we know how, we can help these organisations build back better and stronger so they can expand and support even more girls through education,” McGowan continued, adding a note on the potential erosion of decades of gains toward equality. “The pandemic has drawn urgent attention to the risks of growing gender gaps. Through our initiative, we hope to reverse some of these losses and help make a difference to our workforce of the future.”

As part of Mercer’s pledge, the consulting firm will focus on sharing its own human capital expertise, for example by supporting the nominated social enterprises with investment advisory, through HR projects such as re-skilling and career pathway designs, or by helping to strengthen their health and benefits programmes to attract and retain highest level of talent. Enterprises in each of its AMEA markets will receive at least 150 gratis hours of skilled support and guidance.