Women employment far from rosy

| Updated: October 24, 2017 00:04:27

Women employment far from rosy

The observance of the International Women's Day a fortnight ago has brought to light many relevant information about women --information that perhaps would not have otherwise gained such prominence in the media. A report published in this newspaper makes an important revelation. The revelation is that in Bangladesh women currently constitute 65 per cent of the farm-labour force. The report, while noting this as a positive development, reflects on the utter negligence that women are to face despite their predominance as a major farm workforce. Wage discrimination and gender inequality in various shapes and forms, no doubt, are the key deterrents to attaining the recognition they deserve. This, more than anything, renders an inferior social identity compared to the males, and confines them to the margin, barely allowing any scope to get integrated into the mainstream workforce.
According to the aforesaid report, the number of female agricultural workers rose to 10.5 million from 3.8 million maintaining a growth of 17.6 per cent on year-on-year basis between 2001 and 2011.
The number of male workers, during the period, declined by 3.0 per cent on an annual basis. The Statistical Year Book of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) shows that female employment - to the tune of 65 per cent in farm jobs - places the country second in rank in the Asia and the Pacific next to Pakistan. Bhutan, India and Cambodia rank third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Increased participation of women in farm activities is largely because of the lack of mechanisation in agriculture that requires myriad varieties of manual works, and women are doing those fairly well. Although women work in various phases of cultivation, from pre to post-harvest stages, the demand for their labour, according to Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Fahmida Khatun, is particularly a time-consuming tasks like looking after crop fields, irrigating and drying of rice and paddy. This is also because of massive migration of males to cities.
Now, has this large-scale involvement of women improved their lot considerably? Studies conducted by RDRS, a non-government organisation and Bangladesh Bhumiheen Samity reveals that women get 23 per cent to 60 per cent less wage compared to men in farming.
Another study on Barisal district, done by the Bangladesh Bhumiheen Samity, showed that during the last Boro harvesting season a male worker's daily wage (Tk 400) was almost twice that of a female worker (Tk 250).
When it comes to employment of educated women in other fields, the situation does offer a better picture in as much as wage or salary is concerned. The good thing is that the social taboo that held back women, even well educated women, as homemakers, has begun to change all over the country,   
According to a report of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), around 50 per cent of the respondents of a survey in Bangladesh support jobs by women. Curiously, 52 per cent of the surveyed people believe that a woman having the same educational qualification and experience gets better opportunities to find a good job.  
These were revealed in a survey report titled 'Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men', jointly conducted by the ILO and the research organisation Gallup.
The ILO, in collaboration with the Gallup, surveyed nearly 149,000 men and women in 142 countries in 2016 to understand their perceptions about women and work. Some 1,000 men and women were interviewed in Bangladesh. Some 11 per cent of the interviewed Bangladeshi women prefer to work for paid jobs, while 46 per cent prefer to stay at home.
On the other hand, 10 per cent men prefer women to work, while 57 per cent prefer women to stay at home, according to the report.
However, 70 per cent of the Indian respondents agreed that it is perfectly acceptable for any woman to engage herself in a paid job outside home if she wants, while the rate is 35 per cent in Pakistan.
Despite progress, a large majority of working women in the world do not have adequate maternity protection. The ILO survey reveals that 41 per cent of the employed women have statutory rights to maternity leave, and 34 per cent of the total is legally entitled to cash benefits during maternity leave.
Worldwide, 830 million women employees are not adequately protected, and almost 80 per cent of them are in Africa and Asia. Extensive social and state initiatives can make women empowerment sustainable and ensure their equal share in employment and economic activities.
In Bangladesh, enactment of the Child Marriage Restraint Act-2017 providing exception for under-age girls to be married off in 'special circumstances' is being viewed by many, especially those who work closely with women in various social stratum, as an unwelcome move and potentially threatening to women's education and employment, particularly in rural areas. This goes to explain that although the government is dishing out funds for women, it is yet to come out of the stereotype that defined the role of women in our society as back benchers. Rights groups and women's organisations have thus a more proactive role to play in order to turn them into partners in progress.
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