Women and the World of Work

Mar 9 2017 - Today is International Women’s Day, a collective day of global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but also a call to do much more to achieve parity.

Since the United Nations adopted March 8 as the annual day for women in 1975, it has chosen a theme for each year’s celebration. This year it is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” — weird bureaucratic shorthand for a call to transform the world of work where structural barriers continue to hinder women, and to accelerate moves to achieve the goal of gender equality by 2030.

Where do women stand today in the world of work? Apart from well-worn feminist concerns such as the wage gap, labor force participation, paid parental leave and violence against women, matters of social justice involving such issues as migrant rights, unpaid work and child protection are now considered as going hand in hand with women’s rights.

Getting a lot of attention in academe and development circles is the issue of unpaid work. Women bear a disproportionate burden–more than double the work of men–of unpaid work around the world–cooking, cleaning, taking care of children and the elderly and farm work. Women’s unpaid work fills in for lack of expenditures in public services and infrastructure. And yet, the value of unpaid work is not recognized in countries’ national accounts. It is thougt that unpaid care and domestic work make up of from 10 to 39 percent of GDP.More than this, the lack of social recognition of this valuable contribution of women leads to discrimination and low statusof women.

Where do Filipino women stand in relation to gender equality in the world of work?

Filipino women enjoy greater equality than those in other parts of Southeast Asia, ranking seventh in the world in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index, as measured in terms of gender equality, political empowerment, health and survival, economic participation and opportunity. It is ranked 17th worldwide and third in Asia in terms of political empowerment, a category that measures the gap between women and men at the highest level of political decision-making

Education and literacy levels of Filipino women have been higher for women than for men. Literacy rates have been consistently higher for girls than boys since 1989. The Commission on Higher Education reported 57.44 percent of female graduates (269,748) against 42.56 percent male graduates (199,906) in the academic year 2009-2010.

But this Filipino women’s edge in education and literacy over men is not reflected in the area of employment. Women still lag behind men in work force participation—despite a rise in the percentage of professionally licensed women in 2010 to 63.7 percent over men’s 36.3 percent. Men’s employment in 2012 is still significantly higher at 78.4 percent over women’s 50.4 percent.

What explains this astonishing gap between the genders in employment rates? Gender discrimination. According to the International Labor Organization (2013), labor market participation of women is lower than men because of “inadequate employment and decent work opportunities, domestic labor and care constraints and social norms.”

Echoing the unpaid work complaint elsewhere in the world, Filipino women are unable to pursue the same opportunities in the job market as the men because of cultural and social barriers. They are expected to do the bulk of domestic work, including child rearing and domestic chores, keeping them from the job market. Lack of child care facilities in the workplace hinders their opportunity to pursue higher-paying jobs.

Other factors have made it impossible for many Filipino women to combine family and work. These include high maternal and neonatal mortality rates and cultural and economic pressures that compel educated women to stay home and care for the family. Hence, women are condemned to spend more time in “unpaid work” like domestic tasks, stopping them from contracting paid employment. .

In 2011, 31 percent of working-age Filipino women were not in the labor force because of family duties, ILO said. Only three percent of men experienced the same.

In 2012, the Philippine Congress passed the RH Law that would have empowered women, allowing them control of their reproductive cycles so they could pursue an education, get better jobs and handle both family and work. The RH law’s implementation was delayed for two years because of court actions. In 2015, the Supreme Court, on a petition of anti-RH advocates, issued a TRO stopping the Department of Health from distributing a contraceptive implant that would prevent pregnancy for up to three years, on the mistaken notion that it would cause abortions. It also stopped the Food and Drug Administration from processing all pending applications for reproductive products and supplies. Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said this would mean more maternal deaths, teenage pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies. There is now a campaign to get the High Court to lift the TRO that is crippling the full implementation of a law that only aims to empower women and set them free.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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