March 8 Privilege Speech: The Situation of Filipino Women and Women Workers

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 18:37 -- gwp_prop

Kapag ang isang maybahay ay tinatanong, ‘ano po ang trabaho ninyo?’ Ang karaniwang sagot ay ‘wala, nasa bahay lang’. Sa mga dokumento na nagtatanong ng trabaho ng isang babae mula sa komunidad, ang ilalagay sa blanko ay ‘wala’ o kaya ‘plain housewife’.

Wala nga bang trabaho sa loob ng bahay? Hindi ba trabaho ang maglinis, magluto, mamalantsa, mag-alaga ng baby, silbihan ang asawa? Ito ay pananaw ng lipunan sa mga babaeng natatali sa walang katapusang gawain sa loob ng bahay, gawaing hindi binibilang sa computation ng Gross national Product. Housework is not recognized as work. But if there are no women ensuring that households are run smoothly, men would have a hard time fulfilling their work and duties outside of the home.

But what about women who have decided to contribute to the family income by taking on jobs outside of the home, but still ensuring that the traditional household chores are still accomplished either by themselves or by hiring another woman, a kasambahay?

Madame Speaker, what is the situation of women who work outside of their homes, in the public sphere of productive work? According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are 14.8 million women workers in the country today, about 49.9 % of the total labor force. Where can we find these women workers and what are their working conditions?

Women workers in the country have a college diploma rate of 21.5 %, higher than the 10 % of the male workers. Despite the high college accomplishment rate of our women workers, about 5.84 million are in work categorized as laborers or unskilled or agricultural. This means that a considerable number of our women workers with college education are in jobs that do not match their educational qualification. Some 6.6 million women workers are also categorized as employer in family-operated business, self-employed or unpaid family workers. In fact, women dominate the unpaid family work category where 4 in every 7 unpaid family workers, equivalent to 2.4 million, are women. These are women workers that can be found in the informal sector where the workers either shoulder their own social security or do not have social security at all. As such, they are not covered by our laws on security of tenure and minimum wage. If their business goes bankrupt, they do not have any social security or social cushion.

Of the country’s 14.8 million women workers, 7 million are wage and salary workers with an average wage of P347.00/day. Official data does not segregate how many of this 7 million are married or single. But even single women support their families which, according to Ibon, require a living wage level of P1,051/day.

Women workers in the private sector can be found mostly in the service sector and manufacturing. In the service sector, women workers can mostly be found in the malls, hotels and restaurants and the fast food industry. In manufacturing, women workers can mostly be found in electronics and textile industry.

It is a testimony of the lack of inclusiveness of Pres. Aquino’s ‘economic growth’ that about half of the women workers in the private sector are under contractual status. If we add the unpaid family workers and the self-employed, the number of contractual women workers and those without tenurial security is very high.

A contractual employee does not enjoy the benefits that are given regular employees as mandated by our laws. Thus, for instance, when a woman worker suffers an injury or a medical condition peculiar to being a woman, such as complications from pregnancy, she will not receive any maternal benefit from her employer and she cannot compel her employer to give her maternal benefits. It also means she does not have security of tenure and can be fired almost at will by her employer. Previously, a contractual status has a duration of six months. But employers have devised to shorten the duration to avoid according their employees regular status. Some employers observe 4 months, others only 3 months. At the end of 4 or 3 months, they rehire the same workers under the same terms. Under this system, the contractual workers do not have any chance of becoming regular because the six month-period is not completed.

Among workers, such devise is popularly known as ‘endo’ or ‘end of contract’ and what is supposed to be a temporary ‘escape route’ for employers is now standard practice in malls, hotels and restaurants, fast food industry, electronics and garments where contractual employees go as high as 98 %. Almost like a rule, these industries maintain only a small contingent of regular workers, mostly the supervisory and managerial employees. The rest are contractual. Some old companies with large contingent of regular employees have also adopted the endo system by retrenching their regulars and replaced them with contractual, maintaining only a thin contingent of regulars.

A contractual employee cannot be a member of the workers union. And workers cannot form a union unless they have a majority of regular employees. If a worker is not a union member, he is not entitled to the benefits gained by workers in collective bargaining agreements. If a company does not have any union, its workers, including those who are regulars, do not have any collective bargaining rights. And without collective bargaining rights, they have no power and forum for improving the conditions of their employment. For any improvement of their working conditions, they are at the mercy of their employers.

Thus, contractualization deprives workers not only security of tenure, social security, the wage and non-wage benefits that they are entitled to if they were regulars but also undercuts their union rights. Moreover, as far as women workers are concerned, contractualization increases their vulnerability to sexual harassment in the workplace. Most cases of sexual harassment in the workplace involved superiors who took advantage of the contractual status of their women workers to curry sexual favors.

This explains why workers, especially women, consider contractualization a bane. It will also explain why no matter how hard our women workers work, they remain poor because of low wages and lack of tenurial security and work benefits.

Although the CCT program of the Aquino administration has specifically targeted women and children, poverty continues to batter our women and children and it batters them with discriminating effects. Based on 2012 figures, the poverty incidence of women and children, at 25.64% and 35.20% respectively, has been higher than the national average of 25.20 %. Comparing selected regions through 2006–2012, the Center for Women’s R8esources also found that poverty among women and children increased in Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Central Mindanao and ARMM. Taken together, these figures suggest of economic discrimination of our women and children; that our women and children are the primary victims of the lack of inclusiveness of the alleged economic growth under the Aquino administration.

Two days before the International Women’s Day, women workers led by Kilusang Mayo Uno-KMU Women held a protest outside a flat glass factory in Pasig City to condemn the company’s contractualization of its work force.

The Japanese-owned AGC Flat Glass Philippines employs hundreds of female contractuals and even tried to retrench the only female regular worker in the factory.

With this, Madame Speaker, workers have every reason to call for the banning of contractual employment. It attacks workers’ rights to just wages and job security, as well as their right to unionize and to collectively bargain.

Because of all these, the Gabriela Women’s Party, in the militant spirit of the International Women’s Day which began as a day of protest of women workers and labor groups in different parts of the world, went out to the streets yesterday to join our women and the Filipino people in their call to legislate the Regular Employment Bill and put an end to contractualization. Along this line, we also called for the legislation of genuine agrarian reform and the implementation of programs that will implement employment generation and provide decent wages, free education and basic social services to our workers.

In the same spirit, Madame Speaker, we urge our colleagues in this chamber to join the call of our women workers.

Thank you, Madame Speaker.

Legislation Type: