The world changes every single day and so does everything else as well. Likewise, the kinds of challenges and discriminations women face in every workplace of every field become variant from time to time. From applying for jobs to job promotion, women meet unfair treatments and disfavor in the workplaces, in comparison to men, which discourages them to produce less involvement and motivation in leadership in businesses or political positions. A considerable variable of issues has been being found in workplaces for women in Myanmar and the Philippines. This article is a collaborative project by two authors from Myanmar and the Philippines and will particularly discuss the already existing and new sorts of challenges and discriminations women encounter among their male colleagues and then advocate all responsible persons and institutions out there from employers to government officials and institutions to take actions for women rights violations in workplaces.
Myanmar Women in Workplaces
As the centuries grow, the form of challenges women face in the workplaces change. In Myanmar, some same old discriminations and exploitations still remain unresolved in the workplaces, especially in the industries, mills, and factories while women in modern workplaces like NGOs, INGOs, business companies and educational private institutions deal with new forms of exploitations and separations, dependent on their gender identity.
Like every woman in workplaces in other countries, women employees in Myanmar encounter so many challenges in working for earning money, specifically in business sectors. According to ILO report, Myanmar women deal with verbal and physical abuses, promotion limitations, salary reduction, and most severely, pregnancy tests before getting accepted to work to ensure that any kinds of maternal care for children do not distract them to focus on their tasks in workplaces. These restrictions over women workers particularly encourage women to not think outside of the box and get out of their kitchens and then to become less involved in businesses or community activities.
Workers from Myue & Soe Garment factory stand during a protest for salary increment in front of the Mayangone township labor office in Yangon in 2012
Women in Myanmar, due to weak labour laws and corruption between employers and government institutions, confront discriminating cases from applying for jobs to promotion, in contrast to men. In one case in a garment factory in Hlaing Tharyar Township, Yangon Division, a teenage girl was sexually exploited by a HR manager to get a job in the factory. Sexual exploitation, verbal assault, and physical teases from men in workplaces are common in Myanmar workplaces of factories and industries. Then, when it comes to the court, the punishment was just a hilare which was a certain amount of money paid to the court and some cash to the victim, and sometimes, victim-blaming is usual in stereotypical Myanmar communities.
On the other hand, in the workplaces of NGOs, INGOs, big Companies, and educational private institutions, women do not have to deal with the same issues that occurred in those hard-labour workplaces. However, they still face skill-based discriminations, over workload and workforce exploitation, and barriers to achieving high positions in the decision-making process, especially in government sectors in Myanmar. These problems are commonly found in these Work-from-Home hours during the Covid-19 period.
In one interview with a senior-level woman employee in an Early Childhood Education Development private institution, she comments that the selection committee consisting of both men and women does not favour women with high skills in Graphics for a Graphic Designer position but instead chooses men with same or lower skills in the field because the committee thinks that men can do better in Graphics than women and also, women committee members even support this idea. This conveys the message that women should also support one another for slaying discrimination against themselves, not just men or just employees or the governments. Additionally, when it comes to a job promotion or taking over high positions, women always have to struggle more to attain those achievements. Even in modern workplaces, women are still dealing with these aforementioned already existing or new forms of challenges and discriminations.
Women Workers at a Garment Factory in Hlaing Tharyar Township, Yangon
However, most issues in hard-labour workplaces in Myanmar can be addressed through social dialogues between workers and employers, enforcing government laws and policies, and the workplace’s strict rules and regulations. These ideas have been being publicated and already reported to the government institutions, but still, no actions have been taken so far so discriminations become a commonality.
In my opinion, employers are supposed to enact formal policies to take responsibility and cover for any workers including women for workplace discrimination or harassment. Local governments and community organizations should be well aware and informed of their local issues, especially issues related to women in workplaces. When incidents happen in workplaces, the responsible ministry should always be ready to inspect the case and protect the victims.
Forecasted Female Labour Force in Myanmar in 2020, World Bank
In fact, many, many recommended actions and plans for tackling workplace discrimination issues for Women have already been being publicated and repeated again and again by local and international organizations at both local and national government levels in Myanmar, especially the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement. However, they have never listened to local reports and on-ground voices and difficulties so the culture of discrimination towards women and also children still grows in Myanmar.
Now, the coup has occurred and the hope for the end of workplace discriminations and exploitations over women in terms of gender, salary, workforce, workload, working hours, and so on is gone. Where is the hope for Myanmar women in this kind of authoritarian era?
Filipino women in the workplace
Filipino women are still experiencing discrimination in the workplace despite the country excelling in the world rankings for Global Gender Gap Index.
The Philippines enjoys an image of providing a much better environment for women in the world rankings. It was ranked 8th place in the world for the 2018 Global Gender Gap Index. Conversely, the rankings do not guarantee that women do not experience challenges like discrimination in the workplace.
There are only 49.1% of Filipino women are in the job market which only corresponds to 65.3% gap closure. Meanwhile, there are 75.2 % of men are participating in the labor force. Just to guide you, 100% gap closure means that there is perfect equality between men and women in a particular aspect.
The numbers here may not guarantee quality. Filipino women are still experiencing discrimination in the workplace. There are cases that Filipino women are still paid a lower monthly salary compared to their male counterparts of the same job. A sample of 6,971 skilled workers showed that women earn Php 5,000 less than men. It means that there are still many things that need to be fixed in order to achieve equality in the workplace.
In terms of paternity and maternity leaves, men and women in the Philippines have a big difference in the length of days. Women are given 105 days of maternity, regardless of the type of delivery (caesarian or normal delivery). Meanwhile, men are only given 7 days. If women will continue to have way longer maternity leaves than paternity leaves, it instills in the minds of the people that women are the ones to bear the bulk of child care. This leaves women in a more challenging situation to balance child care and progress in a career compared to men. Furthermore, women will be asked about plans for having a family during job interviews more than men. It is worth noting that maternity leaves may be way costly than paternity leaves. Companies might always consider these costs for a better profit margin.
In the selection process for technical jobs, men are more privileged than women. Men have a bigger probability to be chosen for these kinds of jobs compared to women. Women are mostly assigned support roles. Women are judged more on their actual performance while it may be easier for men because they might be judged by just sheer potential, not actual performance.
In terms of the presence of women in senior and managerial roles, the Philippines have already achieved gender parity. The country garnered parity scores for women in terms of Legislators, professional and technical workers, Literacy rate, Enrolment in both secondary and tertiary education, Healthy life expectancy. It means that women are equal to men in these aspects.
The Philippines ranked 18th for Economic Participation and Opportunity for women. Meanwhile, its overall rank is 17th for the Global Gender Gap Index 2021 rankings. The country garnered a score of 0.795 which is 0.003 higher than the previous year’s score for Economic Participation and Opportunity. Just to guide you, a score of 1 is parity, and 0 means imparity.
Unlike Myanmar, the Philippines is somewhat more developed but still deals with old and modern forms of workplace issues, violating women’s rights. Getting a higher rank in Global Gender Gap Index or any other development indexes does not literally guarantee a safe and non-discriminative workplace environment for women.
What we need is cooperative actions from employers, community organizations, government institutions, and surely, women themselves to put an end to workplace discriminations towards women. Actions speak louder than words. That is why, those mentioned parties in both Myanmar and the Philippines should fight collaboratively to get rid of these gender issues in workplace environments.
Investing in Women, 2019. Gender pay gap still exists in the Philippines—study. Retrieved from: https://investinginwomen.asia/posts/video-gender-pay-gap-philippines/
World Economic Forum, 2021. Global Gender Gap Report. Retrieved from:https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2021.pdf
World Economic Forum, 2020. Global Gender Gap Report. Retrieved from: https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf
World Economic Forum, 2018. Global Gender Gap Report. Retrieved from: https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2018.pdf