In commemoration of the International Workers’ Day, the women of Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) express their high regard to the working women who have relentlessly asserted their rights amidst threats and worsening work conditions in the country.
It is already a challenge to be a woman in a country that is led by macho-fascist, misogynistic leaders, but it is even more difficult to be a working woman in a country plagued with poverty, incessant price increases, labor flexibilization, limited work opportunities and unsafe work conditions.
While the government boasts of improvement in women’s economic participation and opportunity which brought the Philippines to rank 8 in the Global Gender Gap Index in 2018, the reality of majority of working women in the country remains appalling.
As cited in the 2019 Ulat Lila (or The Purple Report) of CWR, women, to this day, are still confronted with very limited work opportunities and are mostly confined as wage and salary workers in manufacturing and retail trade.
Based on the most recent data on Gender Statistics on Labor and Employment, there are about 4.7 million women workers in wholesale and retail trade and 1.4 million women work in manufacturing industry. Meanwhile, women who engage in professional and scientific work account are only 125,000 or a mere 0.30 percent in the total workforce.
Jobs available in manufacturing and in wholesale and retail trade are non-regular and low-wage jobs and are only extensions of women’s domestic chores. Further, women are often targeted as “seasonal workers”, namely kasambahay, promodizer, and sales personnel. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that there are 2.58 million women who engage in short-term or seasonal jobs in 2017, while 297,000 women work with different employers on a day-to-day or a week-to-week basis.
Apart from the non-regular and low-wage work available, women also endure unsafe working conditions. Similar to what happened to SM workers and call center agents who were prevented to leave their posts during the 6.1-magnitude earthquake on April 22, many women workers are deprived of their right to occupational safety and health.
However, we remain hopeful that the plight of working women will soon change for the better if they continue on working collectively in asserting and defending their rights.
Similar to what the women workers of NutriAsia in Marilao, Bulacan and Sumitomo Fruit Corp (Sumifru) in Compostela Valley who organized themselves to expose the unfair labor practices of their respective companies and assert their rights. While their battles are far from over, these workers were able to register their sentiments through series of protests. Both group of workers were able to get the attention and support of the public as they continue their struggle.
Likewise, we urge women workers to revel in little victories achieved through collective action such as the enactment of Expanded Maternity Leave law and Occupational Safety and Health Standards Law. These two laws are a result of unwavering hard work and support of women organizations and women’s rights advocates who lobbied and campaigned for the upliftment of workers’ rights since the beginning. Women workers have the strength and skill to lead in raising the consciousness of the female population and in teaching other women how to use their rights in order to build a better future. They know that in fighting for their rights, they have nothing to lose but the chain of oppression and exploitation.###