New union study re­veals work­ing con­di­tions in the pri­vate sec­tor poor for women

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

A new study has re­vealed that work­ing con­di­tions in Sri Lanka’s pri­vate sec­tor are not con­du­sive for fe­males, they work far more hours than their coun­ter­parts in the re­gion and their pub­lic trans­porta­tion needs are not met.

“It is shock­ing (that) the stud­ies done by ‘fe­male ex­perts’ and the World Bank re­cently turn a blind eye to these find­ings. One must salute the cur­rent fe­male workforce for of­fer­ing their labour un­der worst con­di­tions pos­si­ble in com­par­i­son with other coun­tries,” said T. M. R. Rasseedin, Deputy Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Cey­lon Fed­er­a­tion of Labour (CFL).

Mr. Raseedin told the Busi­ness Times that the CFL con­ducted a study on the work­ing con­di­tions of fe­male work­ers and were as­tounded by the find­ings.

On weekly work­ing hours, the re­port said that fe­male em­ploy­ment par­tic­i­pa­tion is high in the pub­lic sec­tor where con­di­tions are con­ducive for em­ploy­ment, so­cial se­cu­rity, en­hanced ma­ter­nity pro­tec­tion, em­ploy­ment se­cu­rity are guar­an­teed. How­ever con­di­tions of work in the pri­vate sec­tor are not con­ducive for em­ploy­ment of women. They are pre­car­i­ous, lack so­cial se­cu­rity, so­cial dig­nity and recog­ni­tion, ex­ploita­tive and pro­longed work­ing hours, etc. These fac­tors dis­cour­age women from tak­ing up em­ploy­ment in the pri­vate sec­tor.

The per­cent­age of the workforce work­ing over 48 hours a week (ILO statis­tics, coun­try pro­files for 2014/13) in fast de­vel­op­ing and de­vel­oped coun­tries are Malaysia ( 23.2 per cent), In­done­sia (22.9), Thai­land (20.9), Ja­pan ( 20.7), the Philip­pines ( 19.2), Switzer­land ( 11) and the UK (10.9) among oth­ers.

Com­par­a­tively coun­tries with sim­i­lar statis­tics to that of Sri Lanka ( per­cent­age of work­ers work­ing over 48 hours a week) are: Sri Lanka (31 per cent), Ethiopia (41.8), Mada­gaskar (33.5), Uganda ( 39.4) and Zim­babwe ( 33.5), the study shows.

“ILO statis­tics clearly prove that pro­longed and ex­ces­sive work­ing hours and eco­nomic growth have no sci­en­tific nexus,” it said.

On long work­ing hours per week in Sri Lanka, the study said the Shop and Of­fice Em­ploy­ees Act ( SOEA) pro­vides for a 45 hour- work­ing week and the Wages Boards Or­di­nance (WBO) pro­vides for a max­i­mum of 48 hour-work­ing week.

Global statis­tics ( Statu­tory Work­ing hours per week – Source: Work­ing Con­di­tions Laws Re­port 2012, ILO) show the number of work­ing hours per week in China, Den­mark, In­done­sia, Fin­land, Ja­pan, South Korea, Italy, Nor­way, Swe­den, New Zealand, Canada, Por­tu­gal and the US is 40 hours with Sin­ga­pore be­ing the ex­cep­tion at 44 hours. Its 35 in France, and 38 in Aus­tralia and Bel­gium.

“All these coun­tries record a sig­nif­i­cantly high 50 per cent plus par­tic­i­pa­tion rate of women in the labour force. Em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence show when weekly work­ing hours are less women tend to en­ter the labour force in large num­bers,” the study said.

Where a coun­try adopts a 40 hour work­ing week as against 45 hour or 5 ½ day work­ing week as in the (SOEA) in Sri Lanka, work­ers in those coun­tries are en­ti­tled to an ad­di­tional 26 days of leave per an­num, it said.

Work­ers in highly in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries such as China, Ja­pan and the US en­joy 26 ad­di­tional days of leave than Sri Lankan shop and of­fice work­ers.

“The above fig­ures de­mol­ish the ar­gu­ment of lo­cal em­ploy­ers that Sri Lankan work­ers en­joy more hol­i­days. ILO statis­tics prove work­ers in Sri Lanka are over worked and they are in the group of coun­tries with Uganda, Ethiopia, Zim­babwe, etc where ex­ploita­tion is the norm and productivity is low,” it said.

Tak­ing the case of Viet­nam, the study re­vealed that this fast grow­ing na­tion has 73 per cent women in the labour force com­pared to 36 per cent in Sri Lanka. “Max­i­mum over­time hours in Viet­nam is 200 per an­num and on ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stance it can be in­creased to 300 whereas in Sri Lanka it is 720 hours per an­num for fe­males and no ceil­ing for men,” it said.

Viet­nam drew for­eign in­vest­ment worth US$11 bil­lion in 2015, up from $8 bil­lion in 2010 whereas Sri Lanka at­tracted $681 mil­lion in for­eign in­vest­ment in 2015 com­pared to $477 mil­lion in 2010.

“These statis­tics prove that com­pelling women to work at night and over­time work are not key fac­tors to at­tract FDI,” it said.

The study said Sri Lanka of­fers the least amount of ma­ter­nity leave in com­par­i­son with many de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries – 84 days (12 weeks) after the first child com­pared much more in other coun­tries.

“The stud­ies up to now ar­gue that women have rel­a­tively bet­ter en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills. Is there any sci­en­tific ev­i­dence to prove this fact? Why are ex­perts fos­ter­ing gen­der stereo­types while talk­ing about women’s em­pow­er­ment?” it was noted.

The CFL Deputy Gen­eral Sec­re­tary said it is these con­di­tions that need to be changed ur­gently to en­able women to en­ter the labour force.

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