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