International Women’s Day: A salute to women workers

Fritzie Rodriguez

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International Women’s Day: A salute to women workers
On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day, highlighting the achievements of women. Today, however, is also about women’s struggles.

MANILA, Philippines – Where do women work?

On March 8, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, highlighting the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

This day, however, is also about women’s struggles.

Throughout history, women have faced and overcome various forms of oppression. Among these struggles are the unfair and dire conditions women experience at work.

In the Philippines, the theme for Women’s Month is “Kapakanan ni Juana, Isama sa Agenda (Include women’s welfare in the agenda)!” The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) hopes that the Philippines will create “gender-balance” across jobs, governance, education, and all others aspects of Filipino life.

Women and girls should be able to “to reach their ambitions,” the PCW urged.

In 1998, there was not much difference in the employment rate of women and men. 

PH employment rate in 1998

Source: Philippine Statistics Authority

Women Men
89% 90.2%

Sixteen years later, women were slightly ahead of men, according to the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Women’s employment rate stood at 93.9% in 2014, and 93.1% for men.

In 2015, the Philippines even ranked 16th worldwide and 3rd in Southeast Asia in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report in terms of gender-fair economic participation and opportunity.

Given these figures, all seems well. Digging deeper, however, reveals differences in women’s and men’s wage and job opportunities.

Where you at?

Majority of Filipino women and men are employed as laborers and unskilled workers. Men, however, earn more in this field.

Average daily basic pay of laborers and unskilled workers
as of 2014

Source: Philippine Statistics Authority

Women Men
P168.3 P230.19

Such wage gap exists even if the average weekly work hours of both women and men laborers are not so different. 

Average weekly hours worked by laborers and unskilled workers
as of 2014

Source: Philippine Statistics Authority

Women Men
35.7 hours 37.8 hours

Next to unskilled workers, most women are employed as government workers or corporate executives, sales workers, clerks, professionals, and farmers or fisherfolk.

In all these fields, except for government and corporate work, women earn less than men.

Of the 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers in 2014, more than half are women, the PSA documented. Fifty-four percent of these women OFWs are laborers and unskilled workers.

Meanwhile, fisherfolk and farmers have remained as the country’s poorest basic sector from 2006 to 2012, the PSA reported.

Can you guess the 3rd poorest sector? Women.

Women’s poverty incidence has remained virtually unchanged at 25.6%. Across all regions, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had the highest poverty incidence among women.

As for women farmers, they earn below the national average wage of all kinds of farmers. 

Average daily nominal wage rates of PH farm workers

Source: Philippine Statistics Authority

Women Average Men



Women play a crucial role in feeding families and communities, yet they do not always have equal access to agricultural support, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported.

If only women were given equal opportunities as men, their yield could increase by up to 30%, FAO said, ultimately helping boost the rural economy.

As of 2014, majority or 5.5 million women worked for 40 to 48 hours per week. This does not include their “unpaid work hours” at home, including childcare and household chores.

Confining women to domestic roles may also take them away from paid work and other opportunities like education and political participation, the International Labor Organization reported.  

In 2015, female flight attendants won a case against Philippine Airlines (PAL) after an 11-year court battle. The class suit stems from PAL’s policy which “compulsorily retired” stewardesses at age 55, while stewards could retire at 60.

The victory was shared among flight attendants and other gender equality advocates pushing for zero discrimination at the work place.

Why women?

Although the Philippines has the Magna Carta of Women, which protects women from all forms of discrimination including in the work place, such problems continue to persist in certain places.

“Half of the population is women; hence, they comprise half of the pool of talents and abilities that can be tapped for overall progress,” the PCW said in a statement sent to Rappler.

Limiting women’s participation in different levels of leadership results to inefficient use of human resources and stunted overall development, according to the PCW.

“When we strive to provide women and girls better learning and hands-on training experiences, more career choices, and motivation to aspire for leadership roles in their chosen field, we help them achieve their full potential and maximize their contribution to national development,” the PCW added.

The PCW emphasized that women and girls should have equal access to education and training, as well as mentoring, networking, and practical hands-on experiences in workplaces and communities.

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