Gov’t urged to encourage more women to form MSMEs focused on international e-commerce

THE GOVERNMENT needs to better track and encourage more women-led micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) engaging in cross border e-commerce, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said.

“Policy gaps must be addressed, especially concerning public-private sector coordination and women-led MSMEs’ lack of access to finance and capacity-building programs, low awareness of government policies and programs due to informality, and inability to scale up and sustain their e-commerce businesses,” PIDS said in a study.

The government think tank said cross-border e-commerce has gained “increasing recognition” as a critical strategy for MSMEs to survive after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In 2022, it was estimated that cross-border activities accounted for 20% of all e-commerce transactions.

“However, women-led MSMEs face disproportionate and unnecessary challenges that prevent them from participating fully in the digital economy and cross-border e-commerce,” it said.

The study found that government agencies collect and store sex-disaggregated data to formulate reports and design their respective interventions. However, they have yet to “address and mitigate the challenges of collecting and processing data on women-led MSMEs and cross-border e-commerce trade effectively and accurately.”

“This has made aggregating data for devising policies and programs for women-led MSMEs on a wider scale more challenging. Hence, policies concerning data on women in e-commerce would benefit from enhanced coordination and information-sharing across agencies and between public and private sectors,” PIDS said.

The study also noted shortcomings in trade finance for women-led MSMEs, such as the lack of equal access to government financial institutions and microfinance institutions.

“Thus, private sector players such as e-commerce platforms and financial technology companies play an increasingly important role in bolstering government programs for women-led MSMEs through their own trade financing schemes and modalities,” it added.

PIDS said that the Philippine policy landscape exhibits strengths in two primary fields: networks, representation, and visibility, as well as in digital literacy, e-payments, e-commerce, and digital trade regulations.

“Conversely, the current national framework reveals weaknesses in areas such as online discrimination, trade facilitation, and logistics and customs duties,” it added.

The study recommended improving coordination within and across government agencies, between government agencies and business organizations, and among government agencies and their stakeholders.

“Vibrant partnerships exist between and among government agencies, leading e-commerce platforms, women in business-centered organizations, and fintech and other digital platforms. These partnerships may be more effective if institutionalized through a board that convenes quarterly and serves as a platform for information dissemination, dialogue, and collaboration,” it added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson