Filipino women open greater empowerment nexus

Submitted by dfabbri on Fri, 03/08/2019 - 09:21

Business Mirror (07.03.2919) After 11 decades of celebrating the day for those holding the other half of the world, the glass neither remains half full nor half empty, especially when it comes to women’s economic might in the Philippines.

Regions / Country
Global challenges
Document Type
Description/integral text (Internal-not for publishing)

AFTER 11 decades of celebrating the day for those holding the other half of the world, the glass neither remains half full nor half empty, especially when it comes to women’s economic might in the Philippines.

It was in 1909 when the first Women’s Day was celebrated in the United States. The United Nations said the Socialist Party of America designated February 28 as National Women’s Day to honor the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York to protest poor working conditions.

But it was only in 1911 when the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where over a million women and men marched in the streets. Apart from fighting for women’s right to vote and hold public office, men and women demanded for women’s right to work, vocational training and end to discrimination in jobs.

Indeed, the roots of women’s struggle for emancipation began in the streets. Today, it is also being fought in the halls of Congress and in boardrooms where laws and public policies are drawn.

Numbers, however, never lie so the BusinessMirror crunched data provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). It showed that as of 2018, less than half of women in the country are in the labor force at only 46.6 percent. This means 53.4 percent of women are dependent on husbands, parents, and other means of support.

Nonetheless, efforts to increase women’s participation in the labor force may have succeeded given that in 2011, nearly a decade ago, the labor force participation rate of women in the country was only at 39.3 percent. This means majority of women were still dependent on others for their income.

However, when it comes to working abroad, there are more women filling the purse. Based on the 2017 data of the PSA, there were 1.26 million female overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in various parts of the world. These women send back about P58.2 billion in remittances annually as of 2017.

Economic contributor

DESPITE the economy’s substantially owing its growth to women OFW’s remittances, many of the Filipino women still live in poverty.

Based on the 2015 poverty estimates, 22.5 percent of women are considered poor nationwide. Women are the fifth poorest basic sector after farmers, fishermen, children, and the self-employed and unpaid family workers. These sectors, which are not mutually inclusive, also include women and girls.

The poorest women are located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where poverty incidence was at 55.1 percent. The ARMM is followed by Region 8 or Eastern Visayas, with a poverty incidence rate of 38.9 percent in 2015.

This is indeed a sad reality that even in this day and age where it seems that anyone can do anything, women have not become financially independent.

National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Undersecretary for Planning and Policy Rosemarie G. Edillon said what is needed are policies that make it possible for women to participate in paid labor and still fulfill assigned domestic work, such as raising children and doing the laundry.

According to her, one way to change the fate of women is to quantify the value of their domestic duties and include this valuation in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) estimates. She added that while this may be far- fetched, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has moved to concretize this concept.

Edillon said the ILO included the Philippines in its pilot study back in 2017. However, the results are not yet forthcoming given that these need to go through a careful evaluation process and ratified. Edillon, nonetheless, still considers the ILO study a step in the right direction.

Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert said “attempts have been made to adjust GDP in the Philippines to account for unpaid care work using a pilot survey on time use.”

“[The] ILO, I think, has come out with estimates of global GDP accounting for value of home care,” Albert told the BusinessMirror. “Clearly, if this is done, the patterns in GDP will be quite different.”

“[Through the study,] women will no longer be the invisible work force, the invisible contributor to the economy,” Edillon said.

However, she added that “more than just quantifying, we really want women to have financial independence.”

Market structure

EDILLON said increasing the labor force participation of women was ingrained in the PDP. This is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that not only require all targets and indicators disaggregated according to gender, ethnicity, disability and others, but also specific targets for women’s rights.

SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women.

The targets include recognizing and valuing “unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.”

The targets also aim to “undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.”

“That’s actually one of the target outcomes in the PDP. We think, for that, we need legislation because women need flexible work arrangements, so they can be encouraged to join the labor force,” Edillon said. “It is regrettable that they have a higher educational attainment but because of certain labor regulations not compatible with their situation, [they are not able to do so]. So we think if we have more flexible working arrangements, we can encourage more women to enter the labor force.”

Albert believes such arrangement is impossible as the labor market remains structured to favor men. This is the reason unpaid work, such as running households and raising children, has not been considered in economic growth.

Paid, unpaid

ALBERT said data provided reveal that 58.2 percent of the time, women are not part of the labor force because they render unpaid care. For men, the primary reason why they are not part of the labor force is schooling (54.5 percent). He added that as of January 2018, an estimated 11.6 million persons—10.8 million of whom are women—are not in the labor force due to unpaid care work.

“One of the major barriers to women’s economic empowerment is the disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work they undertake,” Albert said. “Apart from limiting participation in the labor market, unpaid care and domestic work has an impact on the type and quality of work that women can engage in, and on their wages.”

He pointed to documents from the Asian Development Bank and UN Women that provided a cross-country analysis across Asia and the Pacific in 2018.

“[The analysis] shows that countries in which women perform a higher share of unpaid care work also have a higher share of women in part-time and vulnerable jobs,” he added.

However, work arrangements are not the only concern when it comes to making women more active participants in the economy but also in terms of ownership.

Ownership deeds

According to PSA data as of December 2018, around 599,215 women hold Certificates of Land Ownership Agreement (CLOA), which are not even half of the 1.32 million CLOAs held by their male counterparts. The CLOAs held by women as of December 2018 represented a contraction of 8.37 percent from the 653,945 CLOAs held by women in 2015.

The CLOA is the certificate of land ownership awarded to beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). This means several small farmers are covered under one CLOA and it is therefore not considered as collateral for credit.

In terms of emancipation patents (EPs), around 93,825 women are EP holders, which was only a fourth of the 406,404 EPs granted to men. The EPs granted to women, however, have steadily increased from 57,424 in 2015 and 56,352 in 2013.

According to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 (Republic Act 9700), land titles “awarded under the agrarian reform must indicate that it is an emancipation patent or a certificate of land ownership award and the subsequent transfer title must also indicate that it is an emancipation patent or a certificate of land ownership award.”

The SDG 5 targets also cited the need to “enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women” and “adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.”

Women and tech

AND thanks to new technology, the home, for thousands of women, will now no longer be just where the heart is, but also conveniently the place for professional work.

After years of being almost invisible in the workforce, particularly in some technical occupations, women will finally have their chance to shine in the said fields under another novel ILO project called “Women in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics].” Through this project, the labor arm of the United Nations aims to boost the participation of women in the technical fields using technology from the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRE).

Jordi Prat Tuca, ILO’s regional coordinator for the program, told the BusinessMirror in an interview that while FIRE is anticipated to cause some displacement, it will also produce new employment opportunities especially for women, provided they have the right set of skills and behavior for it.

FIRE innovations like artificial intelligence and even robotics, he said, will replace many simple tasks of several occupations leading to labor displacement.

But the same modern advancements will also generate new kinds of jobs since they will need people with STEM-related skills to program, maintain or even repair the said systems.

This is where ILO comes in to tap women to fill in the said roles.

Easing burden

THE ILO’s Women STEM Program, funded by J.P. Chase Morgan Foundation, was piloted for specific industries in three Southeast Asian countries in 2017 and will continue to run until 2020.

In Thailand the project covers the electrical and electronics sector, while for Indonesia it is the automotive, information and communication sector.

For the Philippines, it is the information technology and business-process outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector.

Tuca noted the said sectors were chosen due to several factors, like GDP contribution and employment opportunities for women. But the most prominent factor, he disclosed, is these are also the sectors vulnerable to FIRE. 

The project aims to boost the chances of new graduates or stay-at-home moms (SHM) by providing them STEM-related technical vocational education and training (TVET).

As for those already at the workplace in the sector, it aims to re-skill or upskill them so they could adapt to workplace challenges from FIRE.

Ultimately, Tuca said, the project aims to finally ease the tough decision women usually have to make when going to work.  

“The choice is family unpaid work at home or paid work outside, which means you have to leave the family. So I think technology is allowing them to balance family and work,” Tuca said.

Relentless pursuit

LINARTES M. Villoria, national project coordinator of ILO Women in STEM program, said they are targeting 300 beneficiaries for the three-year program in the Philippines.

While their goals might seem modest, Villoria said they are already faced with a daunting task of changing the belief that technical jobs are only reserved for men.

She considers finding companies and women who would participate in the program already a success.

However, despite having 500,000 likes and inquiries for the project in its launch, she noted only 100 participated in the program.

The beneficiaries of the program were given skills training in computer animation, game development, software programming, web development and even e-commerce. 

Another component of the program is providing the participants with soft skills training to boost their creative thinking, interpersonal communication, leadership, team participation, and time management, among others.

Villoria said they were able to draw a mixed group of female beneficiaries that included single college graduates and stay-at-home mothers. The latter made up most of those who completed the program.

“When I asked why they stayed, they told me, ‘Ma’am if we quit, what will be left with us?” Villoria said. “The others [college graduates] still have other opportunities.”

Moms at home

FOR nongovernment groups like Filipina Homebased Moms (FHM), the so-called stay-at-home mothers, or SAHMs, hurdle greater challenges. FHM head Maria Korina C. Bertulfo said many SAHMs tend to suffer from lack of confidence to find work even if it is home-based.

“What is common among them is their fear to start, and lack of knowledge, which is being provided by our group,” Bertulfo said.

Established by Bertulfo two years ago, FHM is a “social enterprise” that aims to provide technical and soft skills training to SAHMs via free web-based seminars.

They usually have 700 participants in their online courses. About a hundred of them would successfully be hired for an online job, according to Bertulfo, a former call-center agent.

Bertulfo said she created FHM to help other SAHMs like her to find online jobs to help them earn an income. 

Currently, FHM has over 115,000 members, most of whom are SAHMs in the Philippines and OFWs.

“But we also have single women members because of the job opportunity,” Bertulfo said.

She explained that typical jobs of their members include being virtual assistants, online teachers, customer service personnel, social-media managers and marketers and web designers.

Bertulfo claims a member can earn from P25,000 to as high as P100,000 per month.

“This makes working from home very feasible as long as they have a stable internet.”

She said there was a case when the husband of a stay-at-home mom opted to resign from his work so he could also apply for an online job.

Elevating housewives

SAHMs will be getting support from the House of Representatives, particularly Albay Rep. Joey Salceda. Salceda wants the State to recognize the work of SAHMs or housewives as valuable economic activity.

He said it is time, through House Bill 8857, to appreciate the worth and contribution in nation-building of housewives.

“Yes, it is time to make payment for their housework. The homemaker or housewife deserves at least an amount equivalent of a minimum wage, considering that household work is also a full-time job,” he said. “Under conventional economics, work that is not paid for does not count as productive labor.”

According to Salceda, these include the work of housewives or SAHMs who take care of their children, who walk them to school and assist them in their school homework, manage very limited family budget, do grocery shopping, plan the menu and cook nutritious yet budget meals, “in addition to a lot more miscellaneous chores for their family and their husbands.”

The bill defines work at home as referring to services rendered for the child in the family but does not include home-based work, which is compensated, or any income-generating activity.

SAHMs refer to women who, regardless of civil status, perform the work at home of a full-time mother, and neither have a part-time nor home-based work that is compensated or any income-generating activity.

The lawmaker added that, sadly, society doesn’t consider these works productive and stay-at-home mothers as do-nothings, not unlike gutterpups.

“Every work of a housewife can be considered social reproductive work,” he said. “But most could not see this.”

New valuation

SALCEDA seeks to make the work of SAHMs or housewives as valuable as those of men’s and those in production lines or offices.

“What if these stay-at-home mothers or housewives take out their services as child-carers, as homemakers, cooks and sometimes even as care providers for the elderly and the sick in the family, would not a husband be less productive at work? Would not children be underperforming in school or worse, may even [become] juvenile delinquents and pose a threat to society? Clearly, the country’s production processes will grind to a halt.”

According to Salceda, if the work of housewives is quantified, it approximates the work of the kasambahay, or domestic worker.

Thus, he said housewives also deserve to get paid even just equivalent to what a kasambahay makes.

Salceda’s proposal shall apply to all housewives whose family’s economic status falls below the poverty threshold, who work as full-time housewives, and do not have part-time or home-based work that is compensated.

Financial compensation equivalent to the daily minimum wage of each region computed on a monthly basis shall be given to housewives who are covered under Salceda’s proposal. For this purpose, the local social welfare and development office of each local government unit is tasked to process and determine the eligibilities of the qualified beneficiaries if this bill is enacted into law.

The amount necessary to carry the provisions of HB 8857, or the Housewives Compensations Act, which is under committee deliberations, will come from the annual General Appropriations Act.

Total support

WHILE women are still celebrating another victory with the enactment of Republic Act 11210, or the Expanded Maternity Leave law, the House of Representatives, which has more than 80 women as members, is not stopping.

“The enactment of the expanded maternity leave proves that the country remains to be a global leader in promoting the rights of women and children,” said Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-OWA Party List and coauthor of RA 11210. “This victory is a gift to all hardworking mothers as we celebrate International Women’s Month.”

One of the principal authors of the law, Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano, said the law expanding the maternity leave from 60 to 105 days puts the Philippines on a par with most Asean countries.

Currently, Cayetano said, Vietnam has 120 to 180 days maternity, Singapore has 112 days and Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Indonesia have 90 days maternity leave. She added that Myanmar has 84 days, Brunei 63 days and Malaysia 60 days.

Meanwhile, the Gabriela Party-list has proposed to declare March 8 of every year as a non-working holiday to allow women workers to celebrate.

“Because they had to report for work, many women are not even aware that there exists a date in every year that is celebrated as International Women’s Day,” the party-list said in HB 31. “Consequently, [this day] or March 8 has not really attained the public significance it truly deserves and has not really served its purpose of raising awareness on women’s role in our society.”

Gabriela’s bill is pending at the committee level in the House of Representatives.

Indeed, after nearly 50 years—the first known commemoration of March 8 was in 1971, according to women’s rights movement Gabriela—Filipino women continue to open avenues for their empowerment.