SHANGHAI — The 2 billion women in Asia are still paid less than men for similar work and are extremely underrepresented in top leadership positions, according to a report that estimates limits on female employment cost the region $89 billion a year in lost productivity.
The Asia Society survey on women's status in health, education, economic activity and political leadership urges improvements to ensure the region benefits fully from its underused pool of human talent.
Though the status of women varies widely from country to country and from one category to the next, "to continue in this direction would put in peril Asia's many achievements," said the report, compiled by Astrid S. Tuminez, a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
Overall, the gender gap was narrowest and women's leadership strongest in New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Mongolia. The gap was widest in Pakistan, Nepal, India, South Korea and Cambodia.
EU to suspend sanctions for 1 year
BRUSSELS — The European Union will suspend most sanctions against Myanmar for a year while it assesses the country's progress toward democracy, officials said Thursday.
The officials said that while the decision would be formally taken by the EU's 27 foreign ministers when they meet Monday in Luxembourg, it already has been agreed in principle. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to divulge information not yet officially announced.
The sanctions will be suspended for a year, with the possibility of a review in six months, the officials said. The sanctions currently target more than 800 companies and nearly 500 people and include the suspension of some development aid.
An embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression will remain in place.
Chinese captain sentenced to 30 years
SEOUL — A court in South Korea issued a 30-year prison term Thursday to a Chinese fisherman for fatally stabbing a South Korean coast guard officer in December. China immediately protested the ruling.
The stabbing occurred after South Korean officers boarded a Chinese boat over suspicions of illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea. The incident prompted anger in both countries and led their presidents to agree to work toward preventing more clashes.
South Korea's Incheon District Court said Thursday's sentencing was a warning against future violence.
Chinese fishing boats have been going farther afield to feed growing domestic demand for seafood. With some 300,000 fishing vessels and 8 million fishermen, the Chinese fishing industry is by far the world's largest. But catches have decreased in waters close to China's shores, forcing the fleet to venture farther.
Premier demands more anti-graft efforts
BEIJING — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is demanding tougher anti-corruption efforts amid the country's biggest political scandal in years.
An essay by Mr. Wen published Monday in the Communist Party's main theoretical journal says greater determination and more effective anti-corruption tools are needed. He wrote the ruling party risks losing the public's faith if it fails to act.
The message was little different from previous calls to fight corruption, but comes amid a nationwide drive to support the party's decision to fire Bo Xilai, one of its leading members, and launch an investigation into what are described as serious breaches in discipline.
Church suspends Mass in mall over trees
MANILA — Talk about divine punishment.
The Roman Catholic Church in the northern Philippines has suspended Masses and blessings of shops and stalls inside a mall in Baguio city to protest a plan by the developer to uproot and remove nearly 200 trees from a popular urban forest.
Masses are commonly held in Philippine malls.
A court last week issued a temporary order stopping SM malls, one of the country's biggest chains, from uprooting the trees in Baguio. But it is unclear how long the order will hold. The mall wants to build an underground parking lot and promises to replant the trees elsewhere.
The project has triggered protests.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports