Press release

ILO, USDOL launch new project to support rural workers

Men and women rural workers will benefit from a new ILO, USDOL partnership to support COVID-19 recovery through decent work, and improve health and safety at work, gender equality and labour law compliance in agriculture, fishing and mining in the Philippines.

Press release | Manila, Philippines | 11 August 2021
A woman worker in a banana plantation in the Philippines. ©ILO
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – With COVID- 19 affecting rural workers in the Philippines, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) today launched a new project to improve working conditions in agriculture, fishing, and mining.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 9 million Filipinos work in the agriculture, fishing, and mining sectors, and 22 per cent of which are women. Mining contributed more than US$ 4 billion to the country’s GDP through exports in 2019 , while “the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector contributed 10 per cent to the country’s GDP as of 1st Quarter of 2021. Despite these gains, these sectors remain hounded by issues like gender inequality and low levels of labour compliance”, according to DOLE Secretary Silvestre H Bello, III.

Workers in search for gold in Camarines Norte. ©ILO/M. Rimando
The new project on “Improving Workers’ Rights in the Rural Sectors of the Indo-Pacific with a focus on Women”, aims to promote and strengthen compliance with labour laws, occupational safety and health (OSH) and gender equality in rural sectors. The Project will be implemented in the Philippines and Indonesia, as part of the ILO’s Safety + Health for All Flagship Programme to improve safety and health globally.

The project’s target initiatives are also designed to support the development of a recovery strategy, which would bring decent jobs and create equal opportunities for men and women workers in these target rural sectors, whose work demands special measures to ensure their safety and health, as set out under the Global Call to Action for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the poor living and working conditions of workers in the rural sectors. High levels of informality, disproportionate job and income losses, and high risk of occupational accidents and diseases have become more evident. These are sectors with high levels of informality, where there are low levels of awareness on and compliance to labour laws; and where labour standards enforcement is weak.

Tuna fishing sector and market in General Santos, Philippines. ©ILO/D. Respall
Workers in these sectors have limited rights to organize and engage in social dialogue, making it susceptible to serious labour violations, such us forced labour and child labour. Women rural workers are pushed further at a disadvantage as they grapple balancing work and family responsibilities. Additionally, women rural workers are often undervalued since their work is perceived as mere support to their spouses or other male family members.

“The rural economies of agriculture, fishing, and mining hold significant contribution and potential for creating equal opportunity for decent and productive jobs, sustainable food systems, improved environmental management and economic growth in the country. Women play a critical role in the supply and value chains of these sectors. Promoting gender equality in these sectors is a good strategy in ensuring no one gets left behind in the efforts to alleviate poverty, ensure peace and order, food security and economic sustainability in these sectors”, said Director Khalid Hassan of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

The four-year project with funding from the US DOL aligns to the goals and targets set by the government, employers and workers’ organizations, and other social partners under the Decent Work Country Programme of the Philippines and the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS). Moreover, it seeks to support the government’s agenda to fully implement the OSH law in the rural sectors and broaden market access through various trade agreements especially for markets requiring compliance and due diligence.

"This U.S. Department of Labor-funded project underlines the U.S. government’s commitment to furthering human and worker rights, as well as promoting women's empowerment, globally,” according to Chargé d’Affaires John Law of the US Embassy in the Philippines.

Nella Fernández is the first female manager in a mining company in East Kalimantan. ©ILO/K. Cassidy
The project will be implemented in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Commission of Women (PCW), employers and workers’ organizations, selected local government units, UN agencies, development partners, rural workers and communities

For further information please contact:

Ms Cerilyn Pastolero
Project Manager, ILO USDOL Project on Improving workers’ rights
in the rural sectors of the Indo-Pacific with a focus on women

Ms Ana Liza Valencia
Partnership Development Officer, ILO USDOL Project on Improving workers’ rights
in the rural sectors of the Indo-Pacific with a focus on women

Ms Minette Rimando
Media and Public Information
ILO Country Office for the Philippines