Rep. Emmi De Jesus
Gabriela Women’s Party
Jan. 24, 2017
Mr. Speaker, distinguished members of the House, good afternoon. I rise at this important juncture to recognize and actively promote a vital social function played by women in the nation’s economy. In the legislative realm, passing a bill that promotes women’s maternal health is certainly in line with this thrust to advance women’s role in our society.
It has been demonstrated in several studies that a longer maternity period benefits everyone, improving the infant’s health and aiding the complete recovery of the mother. It also extends the breastfeeding period, thereby also extending the positive impacts of breastfeeding on the development of the child.
In the Philippine setting wherein much remains to be improved in terms of maternal protection and delivery of basic social services, inadequate maternity leave period puts both women and children at greater risk. This is exacerbated by the creeping privatization of public hospitals, and stringent company rules that force women workers to cut short their maternity leave. Some companies even explicitly discourage pregnancy among women workers or retrench women workers who are found to be pregnant.
The state should intervene, at the minimum, decent work for women workers who suffer from multiple layers of exploitation in the workplace. Pregnancy should never be a basis for a women worker to be denied of her job.
Based on the latest gender statistics on employment, 39.55% of the total employed or 15.29 million are women workers while 23.37 million are male workers. In terms of employment opportunities, women workers are concentrated in low-paying contractual jobs. In the wholesale and retail trade sector, which include malls and supermarkets, women account for 60 percent of total workers. This is the sector where labor contractualization is rampant, where sales ladies are shuffled every five months and are forced to endure long hours of standing for a measly pay. We should also take note that 5.62 million women workers, or one-third of total female workers, are aged 20-34 years old – the best reproductive years for women.
Unfortunately, the current law gives pregnant women workers only sixty (60) calendar days of paid maternity leave for normal delivery and seventy-eight (78) calendar days in case of Caesarian section delivery. This is a far cry from the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention specifying at least fourteen weeks with provision for a six-week compulsory post-natal leave, and from the 90-days standard of South East Asian countries.
This highlights the need for Congress to step in and approve measures that will raise the current length of maternity leave closer to the international standard on maternal protection.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, before us is House Bill 4113 or the consolidated bill on the 100 Days Maternity Leave for consideration. The measure stipulates that “all covered female employees in government and private sector including women workers in the informal economy, regardless of civil status or the legitimacy of her child, shall be granted one hundred (100) days maternity leave with pay and an option to extend for an additional thirty (30) days without pay.”
Proponents of the measure also included provisions that will guarantee improved maternal protection for contractual women workers, women in the informal economy, female national athletes, and for women who are not members of the Social Security System (SSS).
I would like to emphasize, however, that granting longer maternity leave for women workers should be unconditional on the part of the SSS. If approved, the measure should not be an added basis to hike the workers’ contributions. Legislating stronger maternal protection should not come at the expense of those we would like to uplift and protect.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished members of the House, let us mark the first month of 2017 with a bold, landmark move to uphold and promote women’s vital role in economy by approving House Bill 4113 extending the maternity leave to 100 days. Muli, magandang hapon. #