Opening address at the ILO-ADB launch of publications on promoting gender equality in the labour market

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the ILO-ADB launch of publications on promoting gender equality in the labour market, Mandaluyong City, Philippines, 31 March 2014

Statement | Mandaluyong City, Philippines | 31 March 2014
  • Mr Nugent and officials of the ADB,
  • Ms Verzosa of the Philippine Commission on Women,
  • Partners and advocates to promote gender equality,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!
First of all, let me thank the ADB and the Philippine government through the Philippine Commission on Women for this partnership to help promote gender equality in the labour market.

Before I came to the Philippines, I worked in the Employment Trends Department in ILO Geneva and wrote several publications focused on women’s participation and how to effectively address and promote equal opportunities for women and men.

The month of March marks Women’s Month in the Philippines and the celebration of the International Women’s Day.

Looking back, the ILO with our partners, made significant contributions towards realizing gender equality in the workplace focused on the creation of decent and productive employment, promotion of rights at work, access to social protection, and advancement of social dialogue.

However, challenges remain in ensuring equal opportunities for women and men, in order to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth through decent and productive work.

The ILO’s Global Employment Trends 2014 showed that in South-East Asia and the Pacific, labour force participation rate continues to be higher for men at 82 per cent than women at 59 per cent.

Similarly, the employment-to-population ratio of men is higher at 79 per cent compared to 57 per cent of women.

Men continue to dominate the labour force as they accounted for almost 60 per cent in 2013, mostly in the agriculture and industry sectors, while women are mostly in the service sector.

In the ILO-ADB study, this is similar across all three countries included in the study - Cambodia, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines.

Women in South-East Asia also face higher unemployment than men but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Of great concern is the high rate of vulnerable employment, defined by the Millennium Development Goals as the sum of own-account workers and contributing family workers. Women are mostly forced to accept or create whatever work is available, just so they and their families can survive another day.

Workers in vulnerable forms of employment do not have contractual work arrangements, often with little or no social protection benefits, and representation and voice in the society.

Vulnerable employment in the region is estimated at 59 per cent in 2013, wherein women are more likely to be part of than men.

Strategies to make the labour force more inclusive have been in the roadmap towards sustainable and inclusive growth. However, we also need to look at the concerns of men.

Using the Philippines as an example, we can look at the secondary school participation ratio in enrolment wherein females remain higher than males, at 70 per cent and 56 per cent respectively.

Also, in 2012 more women between 25 to 54 years old finished secondary school than men.

The ILO's goal on gender equality is to promote decent work and equal opportunities for women and men in partnership with the government and employers’ and workers’ organizations.

The approach focuses on addressing specific issues of both women and men, but at the same time looking at women’s practical and -strategic needs; and enabling women and men to equally participate and benefit from development efforts of society.

In response to the labour market situation in the region, ILO initiatives to promote gender equality in the region include:
  • supporting governments, employers' and workers' organizations, to include young people and young women in strengthening their capacities;
  • developing and implementing laws and regulations;
  • providing policy advice, capacity development, advocacy, knowledge development and sharing on labour, equality and non-discrimination;
  • combating hazardous forms of work; and
  • participating in humanitarian response work, which promotes equal opportunities for women and men to participate in the rehabilitation and recovery process.
With that said, it is my hope that our organizations continue to work more closely in the coming years towards bringing significant improvements in the lives of women and men.

I’m sure these joint publications will be useful tools in promoting and advancing gender equality not only in the Philippines but also across the region.

As we shared our experiences, good practices as well as challenges, may these be part of the solutions to help promote gender equality in the labour market and to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth through decent and productive work.

Thank you and Mabuhay!