From experience, we know that teachers are more likely to be women than men, and this is validated by official statistics. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 73 percent of employees in the education sector are women. But did you know that females outnumber or equal males in eight other economic sectors?
One of these is the professional, scientific and technical field that employs more than a hundred thousand women, roughly the same number as men. There are 278,000 women in financial and insurance activities, and they account for 56 percent of the workforce in the sector.
In addition, the average pay for women is higher than that for men in 12 of the 22 major industries. Women working in international organizations based in the Philippines get an average pay that is 148 percent more than what the men receive. The premium pay for women is 48 percent in construction, 45 percent in transportation and storage, and 27 percent in administrative and support service activities, among others.
Yet, remarkable as these numbers are, the overall extent of female employment leaves much to be desired. Women account for only 40 percent of paid employees in the country—which is quite odd considering that they make up roughly half of the Philippine population, according to the PSA.
The gap could be traced to the lower participation rate of women in the labor force. In 2015, only 50.1 percent of women who are 15 years and older are at work or looking for work. That compares to 77.3 percent of men in the labor force. Many women who are not in school and otherwise eligible for employment don't bother looking for a job because they are too busy taking care of children and other household work.
Amid this mixed picture on the state of female employment, the Senate unanimously passed the proposed "Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017” authored by Senator Risa Hontiveros earlier this month. A counterpart measure at the House of Representatives is still pending at the committee level and has yet to be approved by the entire body.
The proposed law will extend the paid maternity leave of working women to 120 days, double the minimum 60 days provided by the current law. Single working moms are entitled to a paid maternity leave of up to 150 days. The paternity leave was also lengthened to 30 days from seven days.
Shortly after the bill was approved, Entrepreneur Philippines' asked via Facebook what people thought of the legislative bill.
Given the slew of additional benefits that the proposed law provides to future moms and dads employed in medium to large enterprises, we had expected many of our readers to support the bill. Of course, we also expected employers and business owners among our readers to be more critical of the proposed law.
To our surprise, only half of those who commented on the question supported the bill. The other half didn't like it even though many of them are female employees who stand to benefit from the proposed law.
It turns out many of them are worried they won't get hired or may even be fired if employers keen to avoid the additional costs of extended maternity leaves start discriminating against hiring women within the child-bearing age. As one reader wrote: “It [the bill] is a good reason not to hire women.”
To be sure, gender discrimination is already illegal. Still, given the weak capacity of the Department of Labor and Employment to monitor thousands of enterprises in the Philippines, many are right to be worried that employers can get away with discriminatory practices against women of childbearing age.
It'll be a pity to see the gains achieved by women in the workforce stalled or even reversed by discriminatory hiring practices. The proponents of the proposed law should strengthen the bill's provisions against gender discrimination. More importantly, they should boost the capacity of the DOLE to prevent this kind of thing from happening.