- Honourable Speaker Congressman Alvarez;
- Honourable Representatives Congresswoman Dy, Congresswoman Villarica, Congresswoman de Jesus,
- Distinguished officials from the House of Representatives,
- Mr Dongeto of the PLCPD,
- Mr Orcilla of the Philippine Commission on Women,
- Women leaders of Work4EML,
- Our partners from the government, employers’ and workers’ organizations;
- Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon to all of you!
Significant contributions towards realizing gender equality in the workplace have been made, however, challenges remain.
In the Philippines, the ILO’s Decent Work Country Diagnostics showed that men account for 77 per cent of the labour force and only 50 per cent for women.
The labour force gender gap was widest in the reproductive and prime age group of 25 to 54 years old, despite more women than men reaching college, as well as existing laws to ensure equal treatment and employment opportunity.
What is holding women back from decent work? Why do women around the world continue to face pressures of losing a job due to pregnancy, of balancing work and family responsibilities, and of fighting discrimination and breaking barriers?
Maternity protection is essential to address these challenges. The ILO created the first global standard on Maternity Protection almost a hundred years ago. (Yes, the ILO will mark its Centenary next year.)
There is a gradual positive shift on the most recent ILO standard on maternity protection, known as ILO Convention 183. Half of countries around the world meet the minimum 14 weeks, while a fifth meet the recommended 18 weeks of maternity leave. More and more countries are implementing paternal and parental leave.
Maternity protection helps fight discrimination at work, realize fundamental labour rights and ensure access to employment.
Maternity protection also contributes to promoting inclusive economic growth and reducing poverty, in line with the Philippine Development Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals, as it helps:
- strengthen women’s access and participation in the labour force,
- provide an opportunity for women to use their skills and education efficiently,
- decrease absenteeism, increase loyalty to the company, and offer a safe and healthy workplace,
- create positive effects on the health of women and their children,
- promote breastfeeding and save on formula and milk substitutes, thereby having healthier, smarter and stronger babies as the country’s future generation, and
- fight poverty through gender equality and income security.
These women cannot afford to stop working even for a day because their family depend on their income to survive. Strengthening social protection is crucial to support employers and workers, to protect the most vulnerable, and to leave no one behind.
Each of you here has taken an important step to scale up efforts towards improving maternity protection. We commend you for taking the lead.
Our work should continue to align and to consider elements under ILO Convention 183 on maternity leave; cash and medical benefits; health protection from workplace risks; employment protection and non-discrimination; and breastfeeding arrangements in the workplace.
Over the past few years, the ILO Country Office for the Philippines has worked with national and local governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations in implementing projects to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the workplace and to strengthen maternity protection.
The ILO stands ready to support the Philippines and to provide technical assistance towards ensuring that national policies and practices are aligned with international standards set under Convention 183.
Again, we are grateful to the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, Nagkaisa, IndustriALL, Partido ng Manggagawa, Work4EML and all those who are here today for your efforts and for your contributions to promote maternity protection and to achieve decent and productive work for all.
I wish you continued success and all the best in all your endeavours. To all the women, led by our distinguished and honourable representatives, we salute and appreciate you! Happy Women’s Month.
Maraming salamat po!