International Labour Organization
South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary Advisory Team

ILO/SEAPAT's OnLine Gender Learning & Information Module

Unit 3: How to mainstream gender in ILO operations

Gender analysis in technical co-operation projects

Case study: Gender Impact Assessment: The Case of Project WISE 
Project Background
Project Description

1. Project Design
2. Project Implementation
3. Project Monitoring
4. Project Evaluation

Project Background

Improving Working Conditions and Productivity in Small Enterprise (WISE) is a project of the Government of the Philippines, with UNDP funding and ILO technical support. The executing agency is the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and its Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) manages Project WISE. WISE is implemented in four regions, namely the National Capital Region (NCR), Region 4, Region 7 and Region 11, by DOLE's Regional Offices. The three-year project, which started late in 1993, has been extended up to 1998. It builds on a pilot by DOLE's Institute of Labor Studies (ILS) running from August 1989 to November 1990. Based on the ILO Action Manual and Trainers' Manual on Higher Productivity and a Better Place to Work, published in 1988, ILS developed a training course for trainers, conducted trainers' training and entrepreneurs' courses in Regions 4 and 7, and produced a video. USAID provided funds while ILO gave technical support.

Government recognizes the important role of small and medium enterprises in generating employment and in producing commodities for local consumption and for export. Recent policies aim to rationalize government assistance and services to entrepreneurs. The Small and Medium Enterprise Development Council (SMED) was set up with the involvement of both public and private organizations. DOLE is responsible for ensuring safe working conditions and promoting worker protection and welfare. Since 1976, DOLE has adopted a more developmental approach to ensuring occupational health and safety of workers in small and medium enterprises. DOLE recognizes that the regulatory approach involving the labor inspectorate is, at best, inadequate amid the large number of enterprises and their wide geographical dispersion. Both workers and entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises rank occupational health and safely last among their priorities. Workers' primary concern is wages, while entrepreneurs are occupied with running the business, including coping with minimum wage requirements.

Project Description

The development objective of the WISE project is to raise the productivity and efficiency of small and medium-sized enterprises through improvements in working conditions. The project involves the dissemination of low-cost and practical ways to improve production operations and working conditions, particularly in small enterprises, where capitalization is low and skills limited. WISE covers eight technical areas:

Part of the WISE approach is making entrepreneurs and workers realize the direct relationship between good working conditions and enhanced productivity.

The project's main strategy is practical, action-oriented training for owners and managers of small enterprises. Key principles of training are to:

WISE aims to build DOLE's capability in this approach and to develop local solutions to problems in working conditions. Its target beneficiaries are DOLE trainers and labor inspectors who would be trained in WISE. Entrepreneurs benefit through participation in training and through technical assistance by trained labor inspectors. Workers also participate in awareness courses and are expected to benefit from improved working conditions.

The project will produce industry-specific action manuals for owners and managers on the theme "higher productivity and a better place to work." The manuals cover industries selected under the project: metalworking, wood processing, garments manufacturing and food processing. These industries have the highest incidence of occupational hazards and poor working conditions.


Many factors led to a fairly significant level of benefits received by women entrepreneurs and workers from Project WISE. Women were also well represented in the project staff and trainers' pool, and were themselves benefitted through enhanced skills in WISE and in training. The presence of these factors, however, appears more incidental than intentional. More systematic gender analysis and planning can enhance the impact of the project.

Key findings of the gender impact follow.

1. Project Design 1.1 The project document addressed the issue of how the project will benefit women entrepreneurs and workers. It noted that among the project's priority industries, garments and food are female dominated. It promised to devote some of the courses exclusively to these industries and to exert special efforts to attract women participants, who could help understand the particular needs of women workers and their peculiar work circumstances. Special needs of pregnant workers and nursing mothers were also to be addressed.

1.2 Despite lack of systematic gender analysis, the project design appeared to be correct in its assumption about the sex-composition of entrepreneurs and workers in the priority industries. A monitoring survey conducted by BWC in October 1997, albeit involving a small sample of 16 enterprises from the four participating regions, show that two of the chosen priority industries (garments and food) have more women owners/managers and workers. Metal, on the other hand, has only men as owners/managers, and men workers constituted 93% of total. (No enterprise in wood processing was included.) The familiarity of the executing agency, DOLE, with its constituency allowed it to arrive at this near accurate estimate. Labor inspectors come face-to-face with entrepreneurs and workers in their daily work.

1.3 Sex-disaggregation of the data from this small survey present information that may be further explored. Three industries closely associated with women, namely food, garments, and gifts, toys and housewares have almost as many men owners/managers as women, with ratio at five men to seven women. There was also a significant proportion of male workers in food, where men accounted for 39% of workers. One enterprise, J.P. Noodles in Region VII, has equal number of male and female workers (15:16), with the women concentrated in only two stages: (1) washing newly cooked noodles and laying them out as patties on trays for dying; and (2) packing of finished products. The core production processes-which involve heavy work, including exposure to extreme heat of the ovens and dryers-were done by men. Most of the women workers were paid on piece rate, while most men were on daily wage basis.

1.4 While the project design document recognized other needs of entrepreneurs, for credit, market and technology, the project is decidedly focused on improving working conditions. The executing agency, DOLE, is responsible for ensuring compliance to standards in health and occupational safety. It noted that there are other agencies addressing entrepreneurs's other needs. Involving other agencies as cooperators and members f the National Advosory Committee was intended, among others, to effect complementation of services to entrepreneurs. It was also for building capability of partners in the WISE approach.

2. Project Implementation

2.1 The project implementers, from the National Project Team to the Regional Teams, were not particularly conscious of the provision in the project design document concerning the participation and needs of women. Because participants were organized based more on the location of their factories rather than on the industry type, there appeared to be no course devoted to women entrepreneurs or workers, or to female-dominated enterprises, contrary to the promise in the design. The project implementers, however, were readily able to name types of work improvements most helpful to women. These include back and foot rests for women particularly pregnant women, separate comfort rooms for females and males, lockers and dressing rooms, and child care facilities. Workers and entrepreneurs were reportedly reminded, on occasions, to exercise extra caution in regard exposing pregnant women to toxic substances or to use of unsafe tools.

2.2 There was almost equal number of women and men workers and entrepreneurs who participated in WISE training activities. To the implementers, there appeared no particular constraint to women's attendance to the training activities and to their active participation.

Table 1: Participants in WISE Training Activities, 1994-1996
Name of Course No. of courses Participants Male Female
Comprehensive Entrepreneurs' Workshop
906 463
Awareness Course for Entrepreneurs
1,237 592
Awareness Course for Workers
658  377
Total Participants   2,801 1,432
Data from the Monitoring Survey however present the possibility that women owners/managers, more than men, chose not to attend the courses themselves and instead send their representatives. Seventy-five percent of the male owners/managers attended the courses themselves in contrast to only 57% of the females.

The data conflict with the claims of some members of the project teams that many husbands delegate to their wives the attendance to WISE courses, explaining that their wives take care of such issues involving workers. The tasks of women owners/managers both at the enterprise and with the family-supervising workers and overseeing production, and attending to the children and managing the home - may have constrained them from attending, in particular, the two-week comprehensive entrepreneurs' workshops.

2.3 Both men and women entrepreneurs who attended the workshops found WISE very helpful in expanding their awareness of the importance of good working conditions, particularly in improving productivity and workers' efficiency. The list of WISE measures installed in the 16 enterprises that participated in the monitoring show a wide range of "simple, inexpensive and clever" measures installed. A selection of improvements and their benefits as expressed by the owner/manager are below.

Table 2. WISE: Selected Measures and Benefits
Put up windows Improved productivity due to better lighting and ventilation
Clean work area, organize materials and put up racks Ease in movement
Goggles and masks during painting and polishing Protection of workers; safeguard from accidents
Stools for bakers Improve body posture
Move workers to ground floor where there is more open space More efficient and happier workers
Individual switches for lights Save energy (lower cost of electricity)
Mobile rack for transporting finished goods (no answer)
Work bench for cutting capiz 100% increase in output
Metal funnel for measuring and packing the noodles Increase output three times
Vertical pulley Protect products from damages; reduce stress on workers and time spent on task
Mini-pack plastic scaler 40-50% increase in productivity and reduce damage of product
Electric slicer and rolling machine More even slices; reduce wastage; 40-60% increase in productivity
Study of different production processes and use of new approach to work Timely intervention resulting in less wastage of materials and labor, and smoother production flow
Use of splitting machine and cutter Increase in output
This survey contradicts the information from project implementers that male owners/managers are more interested in the technical aspects, like workstation designs, work organization and productive machine safety, than females. Table 3 shows that both male and female owners/managers gave highest priority to installing measures along the more technical aspects.
Table 3: Work Improvements Implemented by Sex of Owner/Manager
WISE Technical Area
Sex of Owner/Manager
Materials storage and handling
Workstation design
Work premises
Welfare facilities
Control of hazardous substances
Productive machine safety
Work organization
2.4 The project staff also noted that attendance to WISE has given women entrepreneurs opportunities to build business linkages with other entrepreneurs. One example involved the purchase by an owner of a food-processing firm of the scraps and sawdust from a wood processing enterprise as fuel. The training work groups also allowed the participants to advise each other not only on work improvement measures but also on other concerns common to entrepreneurs. In Region VII, the workshop participants, prodded by the Regional Project Team, organized the Cebu WISE Multipurpose Cooperative also to help members access other resources like financing, and to lobby for representation of small entrepreneurs in policy making bodies. The Cooperative had a female Vice-President who was a key driving force in its organizing and in carrying out its initial activities. The Cooperative is presently inactive (DOLE Region VII could not reach any of the officers during this consultant's visit to the region). It was learned that this woman entrepreneur had closed down her business because of family problems.

2.5 Some women entrepreneurs expressed their need for other services, like a soft loan to buy a buttonholing machine in order to increase production, or technology to shorten the drying time of noodles. Others, who had been served by government and privately sponsored programs, were satisfied with the scale of their operations and saw no need for additional credit. Still others had their own sources of support. Some subcontractors have their principals providing them the training and technology. Others received assistance from either their customers or their suppliers.

2.6 Women workers were benefitted in so far as they enjoy, together with their male co-workers, the improvements in the overall working conditions. Improved lighting and painting of walls white have lessened eyestrain and reduced hazards. Installing windows and exhaust fans have reduced room temperature and indoor pollution. Improved workstation designs lessened complaints of back pains; foot rests reduced fatigue levels. More efficient packing methods increased the output of women workers who were paid on piece rate basis.

2.7 The Project Manager and the ILO Specialist on Working Conditions both noted that the earlier published brochures and other promotional materials could have been developed with more attention to the visuals and language used. A review of the draft of the action manuals produced over the second half of the project show that gender neutral or sensitive language is already being used, and illustrations present women and men in activities not traditionally associated with their genders. Notably, women-specific measures are covered, particularly in the section on welfare facilities.

2.8 The increased awareness by project implementers to gender issues resulted from the gender training activities that were carried out by DOLE's focal point on Gender and Development, beginning in 1995. The Project Manager and the Regional Coordinators have all attended at least one gender sensitivity training, and conducted echo session to their staff. It was reported that a session on gender sensitivity was integrated in at least one entrepreneurs' course. Project WISE has also been committed by BWC to top management for gender mainstreaming. Among the measures to be instituted is sex-disaggregation of data, which will require the revision of the computerized data management system, and installing gender-based indicators in the Productivity Performance Assessment System of participating enterprises.

2.9 The cooperating agencies, like the Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development (BSMBD) of DTI, PCCI, ECOP, TUCP and the Alliance of Free Workers, conceded that they were benefitted by Project WISE. They were allotted slots in the fellowship to Australia and in the trainers' training courses. TUCP's Project POSITIVE (Participation Oriented Safety Improvement by Trade Union Initiative Program) tapped WISE trained trainers. Some of those trained in these organizations, however, have left or have been transferred to other programs.

2.10 These same organizations reported that their role in the project was limited mainly to referring participants to the training activities. When little lead time is given for coordination, particularly with their respective regional offices or local partners, they are unable to even help in this regard. DOLE also reported difficulties in maintaining the inter-agency training teams, so that it depended mainly on DOLE trainers. The partners recalled that project schedule, usually set unilaterally by DOLE, often conflict with their own scheduled activities. The National Advisory Committee has not been able to serve as a coordinating mechanism, also because there were few meetings held.

2.11 ECOP and BSMBD are convinced that the WISE approach must be integrated in the range of services that they provide their clientele. They felt, however, that Project WISE was too centralized in DOLE leaving them little opportunity to build their own capability. They recommended that resources be also allotted for their organizations so that they can define their own target and strategy for capability building.

2.12 DOLE trainers and labor inspectors, particularly the members of the project teams at the national and regional levels, are now highly skilled in WISE, and in training, particularly the participatory approach. There are more women than men among the core trainers (9 females to 5 males), and slightly more men than women in the regional project teams (10 men to 7 women). Women trainers from BWC expressed how their participation in WISE taught them new skills like public speaking and participatory approach to training. It increased their knowledge of the different industries, in addition to engaging them to a variety of activities, a break from the monotony of their usual research work. In addition, their interaction with entrepreneurs and workers in their capacities as WISE trainers and advisers boosted their self-confidence. In terms of career advancement, one trainer was sent to Japan to train in "Occupational Health and Ergonomics". She also gave talks on the "Role of WISE Trainers in Participatory Work Improvements in Small Enterprises" in the 11th ISL (Institute of Science of Labour) International Symposium on Occupational Health and 15th Asian Conference on Occupational Health which were both held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in September 1997.

2.13 There is top management commitment to institutionalize the WISE approach in DOLE, and to extend it to the informal sector. WISE has been integrated in the DOLE action plan on livelihood under the Social Reform Agenda, and further WISE trainings were funded from SRA and GATT budgets. At the regional levels however, few such activities were reported. Originally planning to use DOLE's regular budget to run more WISE trainings in 1997, the Project Coordinator of Region VII reported that he cancelled the plan upon knowing that other regions did not intend to do the same. The Regional Director maintained that his office will continue to run WISE trainings.

2.14 In all regions, labor inspectors not directly involved in the project have not yet integrated WISE advisory assistance to their regular activities. Their quota for labor inspection, ranging from two firms a day in Region VII to four firms in NCR, leave them no time to do this. In Region VII however, the Division Chief for Labor Standards Enforcement Division, a female, continued to provide advisory services to entrepreneurs, particularly female entrepreneurs whose enterprises were sites for workers' awareness course. As Division Chief, she is not involved in actual labor inspection.

2.15 Terms of reference of consultants, whether international or national, did not include any provision on gender. National consultants who prepared the industry-specific action manuals were however asked to avoid sexism in the language, and to use female characters in some of the illustrations. This happened soon after the staff's participation in gender sensitivity training.

3. Project Monitoring

3.1 Two monitoring mechanisms are part of the project design. The first is the computerized data management system recording, among others, the profile of the enterprises reached by the project and the WISE measures planned and implemented. Another is the Productivity Performance Assessment System, which will seek to measure WISE's effects on productivity. The database has yet to be sex-disaggregated, and gender-based indicators are still to be integrated in the productivity assessment system.

3.2 The UNDP prescribed reporting form includes gender/sex variables, but in a very limited way. The form requires only information on the sex of fellows/participants to training activities, and the sex of project management and staff. No other information is sought. For instance, the reporting form does not ask about how gender considerations, stated in the project design document, were adhered to. Such questions could have reminded the project staff of the project's commitment to addressing gender issues.

3.3 This study, since it focused on the gender impact of Project WISE, became a catalyst for making the implementers think of gender. For instance, the Monitoring Survey forms were revised at the last minute, to include information as to number of female workers in the enterprise and the number of females benefitted (which were added by hand). Integration of the sex/gender variable in the data base and productivity performance assessment system was also thought about only during the conduct of this study. The study by a Japanese consultant on ergonomics, which was being carried out simultaneously with this study, also included female workers. This study was to measure changes in physical exertion and muscle use due to work improvements. After this consultant pointed out the strenuous and repetitive activity of the female workers washing noodles, the Project Manager decided to include one of these workers in the study. He also dialogued with the owner on how to improve the work process to reduce the physical strain on the workers.

4. Project Evaluation

4.1 No project evaluation has yet been done. Self-evaluation by project implementers present claims of both successes and areas for further action. For instance, DOLE's 1997 report to UNDP stated, "WISE can be among the effective action-oriented tools in the mainstream of intervention provided to small and medium enterprises." The report added that the WISE project is "already well immersed" within the DOLE system through the involvement of the DOLE regional offices and other agencies.

4.2 The report cited the following as continuing concerns:

a) Sustainability: the need for clear policies and structures in DOLE for the full integration of WISE approach labor inspection; and the need to set aside funds from regular DOLE budget and other program budgets.

b) Role of partners: improving coordination and cooperation between DOLE and its partners, cost sharing, and enhancing the capability of partners to deliver WISE services to their own constituency.

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