Gender and Labor Markets in Asia and the Pacific

26 June 2013 -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB), in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), held a Regional Workshop on Promoting Gender Equality in the Labor Market for More Inclusive Growth on 17-18 June 2013 at ADB Headquarters and the Oakwood Hotel in Manila, Philippines.

WooChong Um, Deputy Director General, RSDD delivers the Opening Remarks.(L-R) Imrana Jalal, Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender), RSDD, ADB; Justice Robyn Layton, Team Leader, RDTA International Consultant and Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office Philippines

The workshop was attended by 70 participants, which included ADB and ILO staff, developing member country officials from agencies in government (labor, employment, justice and women’s/gender ministries), civil society organizations (CSOs) concerned with promoting women in the labor market (trade unions, employer/employee and women’s CSOs), and others in a position to advocate social and economic policies and laws to enhance women’s participation and position in the labor market.

The workshop served as the culminating activity of the ADB regional capacity development technical assistance (R−RDTA 7700) which primarily covers three countries, Cambodia, Philippines and Kazakhstan. It aimed to share and discuss the outcome and recommendations of the national studies of the labor market, government policies and legislation; as well as global good practices reviews with ADB and ILO members.

See background note and program. The program included a range of speakers and presenters. View the profiles of Chairs and presenters.

The workshop was jointly opened by WooChong Um, Deputy Director General, Regional and Sustainable Development Department (RSDD), ADB, and Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office Philippines. See WooChong Um's opening remarks and Johnson's opening address.

P. Imrana Jalal, Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), ADB provided an overview of the study and research project, while the Hon. Justice Robyn Layton AO QC, also team leader of the technical assistance project, shared the objectives of the workshop.

Employment as a driver of inclusive growth

Fiona MacPhail, Professor, University of Northern British Columbia spoke to the topic, Beyond Growth and Jobs: Gender, economic and labor market issues in Cambodia and Philippines outlining that many national governments and international development agencies now recognize that employment is a key driver of inclusive growth.

The session explored gender gaps in participation, productive employment and decent work. A key message was that although there had been a decline in the gender gap in LFP, there was no decline in the gender wage gap and social protection in Cambodia and Philippines. She noted that in fact the gender wage gap had increased in Cambodia from 11.6% to 27.4% between 2004 and 2009. See the presentation.

Sreymom Sum (in absentia), Research Associate, Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI) and national consultant for the technical assistance project in Cambodia, covering More and Better Jobs for Cambodian Women, provided a gendered analysis of social and economic policies, and the legislative framework and laws regarding the labor market in Cambodia. She reported on the analysis and recommendations made, why they were made and how they would assist women's work and employment. See presentation.

Session 3 discussants on the topic, More and Better Jobs for Cambodian Women: Key findings and recommendations (Social and Economic Policies; and Law) – Cambodian Report. (L-R) Vu Manh Loi, Head of Department of Family Studies, Institute of Sociology, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences; ADB EFG; Justice Robyn Layton, Team Leader, RDTA International Consultant; Sukti Dasgupta, Head, Regional Economic and Social Analysis Unit, ILO Bangkok; and Fiona MacPhail, Professor of Economics, RDTA International Consultant.

Sukti Dasgupta, Senior Economist, and Head, Regional Economic and Social Analysis Unit of the ILO, Bangkok addressed the critical issue of Women Workers in Cambodia’s Garment Sector. She pointed to the role that women have played in driving growth in the garment industry, and outlined the Better Factories Cambodia program which has created a niche market for labour compliant garment exports. She argued that there was scope for further improvement in terms of women's working conditions, especially given that women workers are exposed to the volatile external economic environment, and noted that this is a model which could be used in other industries and/or in other countries.

She pointed out that although women's employment in the garment sector has contributed to poverty reduction in Cambodia, 75% of all women's' employment remained primarily unpaid in agriculture. Also of note was that labor standards compliant garment exports pushed women's LFP rates and growth, but has also made women more vulnerable in an uncertain global economic scenario. View presentation.

Good laws and practices

Speaking to the topic of Putting Jobs for Women at Center Stage, Carolyn Israel Sobritchea, national consultant for the Philippines, reported on the Philippines study and provided a gendered analysis of social and economic policies, and the legislative framework and laws regarding the labor market. See presentation.

It was noted that 31% of Filipino women report being unable to participate in the labor market due to domestic and care constraints. In a presentation titled, From Global to Local: Global good practices on social and economic policies and law, Justice Robyn Layton spoke on good laws and practices to improve women’s decent work, sharing good practices in legislation from around the globe. She noted that good legal practice to challenge sex discrimination requires a comprehensive definition and simple complaint mechanism. View presentation.

Professor Fiona MacPhail shared some good practice examples of economic and social policies to promote gender equality in the labor market. Attention was given to the characteristics of gender aware design for policies and practices. The main focus was on good practices to reduce constraints to paid work experienced by women, and practices to improve decent work. Of import was that a good practice/policy for promoting women in the labor market requires women participating in the design, implementation and control of the practice. See presentation.

In a key session with the rubric, Wanted: Jobs for the Girls - Planning for women's employment right from the start, Naoko Otobe, Senior Employment and Gender Specialist, Employment Policy Department, ILO, Geneva, provided an ILO perspective on gender equality as a cross cutting priority in the ILO's Decent Work Agenda, and the gender dimensions of employment strategies. View presentation.

Rosa Linda Miranda, GAD Consultant, retired officer UNIFEM Asia-Pacific and retired Professor of Economics from the University of the Philippines, focused on an analysis of the Philippine Development Plan, 2011-2016, from a gendered perspective. She addressed monetary and fiscal policies as well as employment intensive public works. View presentation.

Matchmaking for Women: Linking skills training and job opportunities explored the transition from technical vocational and education training (TVET) to the labor market. Karina Veal, Senior Social Sector Specialist, ADB, questioned the continuing reluctance in some cases to design TVET with specific gender design measures to ensure that women benefitted. In Gender Equality in TVET - is it really so hard?, she argued that we are far off achieving gender equality in both those spheres, and the challenges and disadvantages faced by women in both employment and education impact negatively on achieving gender equality in TVET. Nonetheless, higher levels of education and training can impact positively on labor market outcomes for women, so it is important to progress. Elements and strategies to increase inclusiveness in TVET, should be more widely adopted. See presentation.

Linking skills training and job opportunities

Akiko Sakamoto, Deputy Director, ILO Philippines and Senior Specialist on Skills and Employability spoke on Linking skills training and job opportunities - ILO’s Approaches to Gender Responsive TVET. She shared some good practice projects in the Philippines and Bangladesh and explored the diverse barriers to gender responsive TVET. See presentation.

From the private sector, Marie Jane Liban, Executive Director, Monark Foundation Inc. discussed the challenges of skills training opportunities for women in the heavy equipment industry taking from the Monark Foundation Institute experience. Marie described Monark as a private technical vocational institute which creates training opportunities for female heavy equipment operators and technicians. See presentation.

Annemarie Reerink, Senior Sector Specialist, Gender Equality Policy Section, AusAID explored AusAID-funded experiences in promoting gender-responsive labour outcomes through training. She showcased a promising Vanuatu project. See presentation.

The session on Rural Women Reaping Benefits: Rural women and community initiatives to increase decent work showcased a number of Philippines based enterprises and discussed the government initiative, the GREAT Women project. Luzviminda A. Villanueva, Project Manager, Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) Project discussed this capacity building project that aimed to make economic governance gender responsive, specifically facilitating the enhancement of an enabling environment that will lead to sustainability and growth of micro enterprises for women. She also outlined how the GREAT Women project partners with LGUs to promote rural women entrepreneurs. See presentation.

Cecilia D. del Castillo, Executive Director, Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) explored the work of the NWTF which has replicated the Grameen method in the Philippines. Today, NWTF has more than 1,000 employees delivering microfinance services to over 170,000 active clients, the majority of whom belong to the poorest of the poor in the islands of Negros, Panay, Cebu, Bohol, Samar, Leyte, and Palawan. She also demonstrated how rural women entrepreneurs are converting raw materials to start and upgrade their businesses. See presentation.

Choirs sing loudest... decent work for women featured Catherine Legados-Parado, Director, Bureau of Working Conditions, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippines who spoke about the new Labor Laws Compliance System. She pressed the point that the new government strategy to monitor the workplace involves workers and employers working together. See presentation.

Justice Robyn Layton, Team Leader, RDTA International Consultant, reports the Cambodian study, which included a gendered analysis of social and economic policies, legislative framework and laws regarding the labor market, and recommendations to promote expanded opportunities for employment of women in decent work

Also featured was Christine Nathan, the Regional Specialist for Workers Education, at the Regional Office ILO Bangkok, who discussed good practice strategies and initiatives to encourage and support women to have their needs heard in the workplace. She raised the issue of unionization and the importance of women being encouraged and trained to undertake senior and leadership positions within unions. See presentation.

Sex discrimination at work

Justice Robyn Layton spoke about the complaints mechanism for sex discrimination at work: One stop framework from Australia, emphasizing that good practice requires that complaint processes should be simple, gender sensitive, well publicised and provide a “one stop shop” where possible. See presentation.

In Underpinning Women's Work through Social Protection: Social protection strategies for the labor market, three presenters highlighted the critical role of social protection schemes for women. Sri Wening Handayani, Principal Social Development Specialist of the Asian Development Bank argued that providing women with greater access to employment guarantee schemes or skill development and training will, at least partially, address gender inequality in the labor market. See presentation.

Christine Nathan, ILO, discussed the recent National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and Vulnerable (NSPS-PV) which has been developed with the assistance of the ILO. This strategy particularly addresses informal workers. See presentation.

Joanne Asquith, Senior Evaluation Specialist in Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank in Evaluating Labor Market Programs: Developing Country Experience examined the global evidence for active labor market programs and assessed whether they are reliable in promoting sustainable work opportunities for women. She argued that active labor market programs may benefit women more than men, but more impact evaluation evidence is needed in Asia and the Pacific. See presentation.

The regional workshop closed with Imrana Jalal, ADB, explaining that the technical assistance project hoped to produce 5 stand-alone publications – two country studies on Cambodia and the Philippines, a regional synthesis of the 3 country study, including Kazakhstan; and two global good practice reports, outlining good practices in social and economic policy, and legislation.