May 24, 2013 | 11:54 PM (BD Time)
24 May, 2013 Friday
Employment of women in formal sector
Aisha Siddika and M. Mizanur Rahman :
Millions of working women worldwide especially those in informal sectors are surviving in conditions of poverty and social exclusion. This grave situation affects the entire woman kind. Majority of them are discriminated, subjugated and deprived in a certain manner which makes them excluded from the society.
Man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being… For him she is sex- absolute sex, no less. He is the subject, he is the Absolute- she is the other" (Simone de Beauvoir, 1952, pp. xviii, xxii). Women are always defined as 'other' rather than a human being in our patriarchal society. Their identity and status derive from categories of mothers, daughters and wives. They are thus defined not only in relation to men, but as dependent on men and subordinate to them.
Globalization affects heavily on traditional nature of employment, working condition, and industrial relations. Because of globalization, free market economy introduces many things which result into unbalanced economic and industrial reforms, further affect job security and social protection of workers.
The term "informal sector" has been used by the ILO since the early 1970s which is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy in most of the developing countries, importantly in Bangladesh. The approximate ratio of formal and informal sector here is 20:80, which make us sure of the contribution of informal sector in Bangladesh economy. But there is actually no universal definition of informal sector. Here workers are hardly recognized as human resources and they are not included in the country's formal 'economic statistics'. Based on this argument, workers in informal sector are termed neither "blue" nor "white" collars; they are recognized as "no-collar" workers.
Economic activities such as working in construction industry, rice mill, small and medium industry, domestic service etc. are mainly categorized as informal sector activities as workers here, are beyond the purview of any law; even they are not able to press for minimum wages, fixed working hours, healthy working environment etc.- which are their human rights.
Jamdani which bears the long tradition of craftsmanship is still alive but the major problem of the industry at present, is that the weavers do not get adequate wages for their labor. There is an increasing trend of female participation over the 80's and 90's. In 1980's only 27% female labor was engaged which increased to 44% in 1990 and 47% in 2003 (our research findings). But most of the female weavers do not have direct access to shari market dealings or economic transaction.
They depend on male family members or the owners of the factory (male) where they work, for selling jamdani sharis they made. Wage discrimination, unhygienic working condition, heavy work load, less bargaining and decision making power affect their life adversely.
Again, in Bangladesh there are approximately 40,000 rice mills which are locally known as 'chatal'. Rice mills (huller/ low capacity mill) here are not equipped with modern technology, that is why the milling process also becomes quite complicated here. Chatals are very much dependent on human labor, and almost 5 millions of unorganized workers are working in different chatalsands; more than 60% among them are female.
The ill-fated women come here to work from their homes which are even sometimes situated in long distance. Women workers are mainly responsible for drying and husking paddy and packing the husked rice into sacks. Male workers are responsible for doing the less laborious works (i.e. supervision).
Women working here, are generally given only 5 Kg. rice-dust or broken bits of rice, while male workers are given wages (Tk. 80-100) when milling is almost completed. It takes minimum 4-5 days in sunny season. Though they are ill-paid, they cannot say anything against such discriminatory rule of the mills lest they should lose their jobs and have to live in starvation.
In construction industry, the scenario is also identical. Women workers are considered as less skilled as they are involved mainly in crushing and carrying of bricks and stones, and male workers are in mixing cement, masonry, supervising workers' etc. Gender-based occupational segregation increases the wage gaps in the construction industry. Female workers get Tk. 90-130 while male workers get Tk. 170-220 for same work and same working hour.
Though Section 345 of Bangladesh Labor Law stated that, "…no wage discrimination should be made on the basis of sex/ gender" but in the informal sectors of Bangladesh wage discrimination faced by female workers is a common scenario. After giving same labor, femaleworkers are discriminated from getting the same wage like their male counterpart.
A recent survey by the ILO finds that women in Bangladesh are often considered to be lesser or inferior participants in the labor market, largely owing to traditional societal views that male are the breadwinner and earning is their primary role, in contrast the primary role of women is to fulfill reproductive and domestic functions, rather than fully participate in education, training, and paid work. This is clear that these inequalities at work are related to inequalities at home. That is why their waged work is constructed as secondary; their wages is seen as pin money and their paid work is regarded as an extension of what they do at home.
Now by engaging our full potential human resources, we are to take the country ahead. And for doing so, both way approaches need to be changed. First, society should revisit its view towards women and treat them according their contribution and labor and second, women need to be equipped by themselves by changing their tendency of depending on men and by making themselves educated and skilled. These things can really remove all the hindrance on the way of women's development and proper place in the society.
(Aisha Siddika is a gender specialist. And she can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org and M. Mizanur Rahman is a development researcher and an Assistant director at D.Net.)
Art and Culture
Focus on Chittagong
Fashion & Beauty
Food and Drink
Law and Justice
New Nation Supplement
Editor: Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Adviser Editor: A.M. Mufazzal, Printed and Published by Mainul Hosein from the New Nation Printing Press, 1.R.K Mission Road, Dhaka-1203 Phones: New Nation PABX: 7122654, 7114514, 7122655, Fax: 880-2-7122650, 9512775 email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org for advertisement, email@example.com