Occupational Health and Safety of Women Workers: Viewed in the Light of Labor Regulations

By Lu, Jinky Leilanie | Journal of International Women's Studies, January-February 2011 | Go to article overview

Occupational Health and Safety of Women Workers: Viewed in the Light of Labor Regulations


Lu, Jinky Leilanie, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

This article is an analytic and discursive review of data and studies about women workers in the manufacturing sector in the Philippines in the light of labor regulations. The analyses focus on the following: occupational health and safety, health and safety programs, provision of facilities at work, and labor issues pertaining to women workers. Policy and advocacy work implications are recommended based on the discursive analysis.

Keywords: Women Workers, Occupational Health and Safety, Manufacturing Sector, Labor Regulations

Introduction

Women's participation in the labor force shows the importance and contribution of women to economic productivity, hence, the need for occupational health and safety policies covering women workers. In the light of many research studies conducted for women workers and their work conditions, there is a need for policy and advocacy work towards protection of their health as well as provision of good labor conditions. This is even more pressing with the feminization of the labor force in the country.

Edralin (2001) and Estrella-Gust (2000) noted the feminization of workforce in industries in the Philippines specifically in garment manufacturing, microchip, computerized manufacturing, and electronics industry, operating inside export processing zones 1,2). They reported certain occupational risks and disbenefits to these women workers including low salaries, and deficient enforcement of healthy and safety regulations.

The Philippines has a relatively young population and young workforce. In 2009, 25 to 30 year-old employed persons accounted for 45% of the total number of employed persons. This was followed by persons at ages 20-24 years. Employed male and female workers in early 2010 represented 21.6 and 15.0 million of the total workforce respectively 3).

Both women and men workers experience occupational hazards but women are more vulnerable to occupational hazards (Lu, 2005). For instance, women workers in the electronics and garment industries are subjected to extended and intensified work manifesting in the phenomenon called work intensification and work extensification (Lu, 2009). In the case of women migrant workers, they are subjected to sexual and physical abuses, and maltreatment from their employers (Migrante, 2010). Additionally, women workers face double hazards from both their work and household responsibilities, thus, increasing their vulnerability to occupational illnesses.

Even in other countries, there are various hazards and consequent adverse health effects that confront women workers. In Bangladesh, the export oriented garment industry created a feminized labor force employing about 500,000 young women (Spivack, 1995). The job condition in the factories was far from perfect or even normal. It was characterized by low wages, unsafe work environment, overwork and lack of job security. Those in the video-display terminals reported video blues consisting of syndromes of eye problems, varicose veins, headaches, nausea, skin allergies, and persistent coughs and colds (Spivack, 1995). On the other hand, some of the problems encountered by Indian women in the workplace included burden of the dual role of household and public work, sexual harassment, lack of solidarity among women, and the need to exert double time to gain the same recognition as the male counterpart (Gothoskar, 1995). In Malaysia, reports of "mass hysteria" among women workers were deemed by employers as "evil spirit derision" when it was a response to the highly stressful work and quota production (Spivack, 1995). Webster argued that given this condition of Asian women, the current global restructuring of women"s labor in which information technology is central makes women"s vulnerable position in the labor force more precarious.

Other studies also showed that certain hazards can lead to some forms of occupational illnesses. …

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