Sunday, March 8, 2009

Women workers debunk government claim that Pilar has overtaken Pepe

08 March 2009

The government is just making big fuzz out of its false claim that Filipino women have overtaken men in terms of development, a militant labor party said in a statement in today’s celebration of the International Women’s Day.

Women members of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) (Labor Party-Philippines), who joined the Welga ng Kababaihan’s march to Mendiola this morning, reacted strongly to a presumptous government study which claimed that women have indeed overtaken men in many aspects and that sooner or later it is the Filipino men who will clamor for equality and would demand for its own “National Men’s Month”.

According to an article titled “When will Filipino men catch up with Filipino Women?” written by Candido J. Astrologo, Jr. (, OIC-Director of the National Statistical Information Center (NSIC) and Policies, Programs, and Standards Office (PPSO) and published in March under the column of Romulo Virola, the Secretary General of National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) (, women outperformed men in terms of health, education, and income.

The study claimed women gained higher achievements than men in all three dimensions as indicated by the higher than one levels of Gender Equality Ratio or GER for health (1.0248), education (1.0583) and income (1.2299) in 2003. In fact, the advantage of women in the income dimension grew bigger as the GER in income increased from 1.1170 to 1.2299 and could possibly one of the reasons why this year’s Women’s Month theme is “Babae, Yaman ka ng Bayan!”

And this was due to what the author claims is government’s attention given to women being a signatory to various international conventions and resolutions in formulation of appropriate domestic policies on women, the latest of which is the proposed Magna Carta on Women.

“With all these efforts geared towards enhancing the status of women, wouldn’t Pepe feel jealous that Pilar is getting all the attention? And refer to Pilar as 'ang babaeng humugot ng aking tadyang?' Should there be a Magna Carta of Men too?,” the study pompously declared.

But PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda said the article smacks of pretentions and is more a self-emulation of the Arroyo administration’s wanting gender performance.

“The study merely highlights women achievements in those areas but it hides the bigger picture of the real state of inequality between men and women in the Philippines. It also contains chauvinist innuendos, or a sexist joke at its worst, by challenging the egos of men that were outperformed by women. That makes us wonder whether the government truly understands the essence of women’s struggle for equality,” lamented Miranda.

Invisible work, lower wages, more women death

The awful truth, Miranda said, is that around 51.4 percent (or 15 million) of Filipino women are not active in the labor force compared to men’s 78.9 percent (22.9 million) labor force participation rate. Assuming that 4 million of these women aged 15-19 are still studying and the 2.5 million aged 60-80 above have retired. This means there remains 8.5 million women aged 20-59 who are not active in the labor force and what for what reasons? These women are, more or less, a big chunk of the labor force that are doing fulltime household work – unrecognized by society because the value of what they do remains invisible in the country’s income accounts. Likewise, they are not counted in the statistics of the unemployed. In fact, there are only 929,000 unemployed women accounted for in October 2008. Compared to

“How can then invisible women be considered 'yaman ng bayan' when in fact these women cannot claim that even to themselves?” Miranda averred. These numbers indicate that more than half of Filipino women aged 15 and above are without their own income.

Moreover, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), women are paid lower wages compared to men, and this is the trend worldwide. Despite the fact that there is no discrimination on women in terms of wages policies in the country, majority of women workers are found service sector, education, finance, health and social work where wages are more often than not below the minimum wage rate, without benefits, the worse of working conditions and the type of work they do are extensions of their household chores. To add up to these is the recent lay off of around 40,000 workers, mostly women, due to the global economic crisis.

“How can then we take the report of Virola seriously,” added PM’s secretary general. These data categorically negates the report that women have overtaken men also in terms of education given the fact that majority of women are unemployed and without their own source of income.

The same goes in the health aspect. It is true statistics say that women live longer than men, however, there are also 11 women who die in childbirth everyday according to the recent study conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund. Pregnancy and childbirth complications remain in the top 10 killers of women in the country. In relation with this, it is estimated that 800 women die yearly due to complications of unsafe abortion. Around 3,0000 women yearly are reported raped and the trend is going up. Another 3,000 women die of breast cancer yearly, and another 2,000 of cervical cancer.

Demand for bailout

In the face of the global economic crisis, the Partido ng Manggagawa is demanding in particular, (1) a specific subsidy program for displaced women workers, (2) tax refund for wage earners, (3) extension of health care coverage, (4) a reformed public employment program for displaced and unemployed women, and, (5) a moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

It is also calling for the reversal of liberalization, deregulation and privatization policies which women blame for the high prices of goods and the deterioration of public services.

The labor party is also calling for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill now pending before the Congress.

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