Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies

By Annette Burfoot | Go to book overview

twenty-five
Reproductive Health
in the Workplace

REGINA H. KENEN

Reproductive health issues for women in the workplace are basically the same worldwide. What is vastly different is the degree to which women are exposed to workplace hazards and stress, the adequacy of their pregnancy and maternity benefits, and the quantity and quality of available child care facilities, if any. Also, too little attention has been given to male reproductive hazards in the workplace even though it is known that toxic substances can affect both men's and women's ability to conceive or bear healthy children and can affect the health of future children. Exposure to some pesticides, cancer drugs, lead, viruses, and X rays, as well as stress, increasing violence against women, and excessive lifting of heavy weights, are just a few workplace conditions that can have adverse reproductive effects.

The International Labor Office projects that by the year 2000, 830 million women will be in the labor force worldwide. In many Western, industrialized nations, they make up more than 50 percent of the workforce. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that in Latin America and the Caribbean, 27 percent of the labor force is women. This figure represents a fourfold increase in the number of women wage earners since 1950. The majority of these women will be part of the labor force during one or more of their pregnancies.

Women tend to be segregated into specific jobs. In Latin America, North America, and Europe most women work in the service sector; in Asia and Africa, they are employed in agriculture, where exposure to

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