Opening address at the ILO-ADB regional workshop on promoting women in the labour market

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the ILO-ADB regional workshop on promoting women in the labour market, Pasig, Philippines, 17 June 2013

Statement | Pasig City, Philippines | 17 June 2013
  • Mr Woo Chong Um, Deputy Director General of the ADB Regional and Sustainable Development Department,
  • Justice Layton, whom we have worked with in several issues,
  • I would like to acknowledge as well Imrana and officials of the ADB present here today,
  • Colleagues from ILO Bangkok – Sukti and Christine,
  • Partners and advocates to promote gender equality,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!

First of all , let me thank the Asian Development Bank for this partnership to help promote gender equality in the labour market for a more sustainable and inclusive growth.

Prior to taking up the post as Director here in the Philippines, I served as Chief of the ILO Employment Trends in Geneva. The Trends team was responsible for producing the annual Global Employment Trends and the Global Employment Trends for Women.

Labour market trends revealed that women tend to have lower paying and lower status jobs.

Here in the Philippines, men continue to dominate the workforce as they accounted for more than 60 per cent of total employed over the past ten years. The labour force participation rates for men in their prime-age are projected by 2030 to exceed that of women by more than 30 per cent.

With improved levels of education among women, employment opportunities have expanded. However, it is important to note that a large share of women remain trapped in vulnerable forms of employment, where they are forced to create or accept whatever work is available, in order for them and their loved-ones to survive another day.

If you have a boat with holes, which one will you fix - unemployment or vulnerable employment as a bigger hole?

In 2011, there were also more women considered as unpaid family workers at nearly 17 per cent of those employed as compared to less than 9 per cent for men.

Gains in gender equality have been uneven within the region. Occupational segregation is high, as is the gender wage gap in some occupations. Nonetheless, within the Philippines, the gender gap in labour force participation is only expected to narrow slightly to 31 per cent in 2030 from 36 per cent in 2001. Thus, more needs to be done to address the gap.

With its high-level commitment to gender equality, the ADB and the ILO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, produced a joint report in 2011 entitled “Women and labour markets in Asia: Rebalancing for gender equality.”

The report pointed out that poor quality jobs are a greater labour market challenge for women than unemployment.

A large proportion of women in Asia toils in low-productivity, vulnerable and low-paid work with little or no social protection at all.

In addition, female youth unemployment is high and women remain largely perceived as a buffer workforce or secondary earners next to men.

In South-East Asia, some 101 million men and 83 million women were estimated to be in vulnerable employment, emphasizing the need to focus responses towards access to decent and productive work.

The report concluded that promoting gender equality in labour markets not only makes sense but it is also a “smart” policy.

The exclusion of women in the workplace and their widespread employment in precarious and vulnerable jobs represent a vast economic and competitive loss for any society.

The report suggested policies which included:
  • support for women entrepreneurs;
  • assisting women working in agriculture to boost productivity;
  • reducing Asia’s over-reliance on unregulated sectors;
  • promoting equal access to quality education and training;
  • gender-responsive social protection;
  • ensuring equality in representation and decision-making; and
  • following a rights-based approach.

We cannot have balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth without gender equality. Indeed, it is not the level of growth but how do we achieve that growth?

The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 supports the need for equal gender opportunity in all spheres of public policies and programmes.

The Philippine Labor and Employment Plan, as the first sectoral plan under the PDP, highlights the need to adequately address gender issues in work and in workplaces, if we are to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth through decent and productive work.

This regional workshop aims to share findings of the ADB’s research on Promoting Gender Equality in the Labour Market for More Inclusive Growth, covering the Philippines, Cambodia and Kazakhstan.

I see this regional workshop as an opportunity for dialogue to promote gender equality not only in the Philippines but also across the region, as you share your experiences, good practices as well as challenges. By working together, this regional workshop serves as a chance to address issues and to find solutions to help promote gender equality in the labour market for a more inclusive and sustainable growth through decent and productive work.

Finally, I wish you all a productive and successful regional workshop.

Thank you and Mabuhay!