Address to the Planning Meeting on Gender and Business Development in the Informal Economy in Thailand

by Ms Christine Evans-Klock, Director of ILO Subregional Office for East Asia

Statement | Bangkok | 11 March 2005

Many thanks to you all for joining us in this Meeting on Gender and Business Development in the Informal Economy in .

In this opening address, I would like to share with you:

WHY the ILO is concerned with Decent Work for informal economy workers, and

HOW we assist our member States in promoting Decent Work strategies for both women and men in this sector

If we look at economic trends worldwide we see that:

the world is getting wealthier but inequalities are rising, for example, for the first time in 9 years the number of people in poverty is on the rise again (FAO 2004)

In terms of employment trends; there are many employment opportunities, especially for young women: (e.g. in the female labour force participation rate is high: 83 women for every 100 men

Women in general in are expected to be responsible for meeting their families’ basic needs, and this means earning income for family survival

We also witness that deep-rooted gender inequalities in societies re-emerge in competitive times under the guise of cost-efficiency

We see that women’s employment to a large extent takes place in the informal economy: in jobs which:

are not covered by labour legislation

have limited or no social protection

are characterized as low-pay, low status and low quality jobs with poor working conditions, little productivity and security

A large proportion of them is known as 3D jobs: Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning

In order to secure better outcomes of growth and globalization for all workers, and, in particular meet our commitment to full equality for women, the ILO advocates Decent Work as a vital dimension to sustainable development:

Decent Work stands for:

Respect for fundamental workers’ rights in any job, including the right to freedom from discrimination

Increasing the quantity and quality of employment and social protection

Promoting the organization and representation of Informal Economy Workers in policy debates and social dialogue

All 3 points are vital for women workers at all levels of the job hierarchy:

Besides a shortage of sufficient opportunities for quality employment, women are often not aware of their human rights, let alone their workers’ rights

In addition, they lack representation and voice in decision making and in policy fora in public life at the community, district, provincial and national levels. They have some voice in the social welfare domain, which is traditionally a women’s field, but as soon as it comes to business, they are trusted workers in the finance and accounting fields but decision making power is lacking

From the ILO point of view, we are honoured: to work with you, our Thai partners, in a growing economy: shares high economic growth rates with other rapidly growing economies in . has a realistic and real chance to combine such growth with equitable sharing of income and benefits between women and men. This requires explicit effort:

Women’s talents are key to ensuring that economic growth does not result in every growing ‘greed’: luxury for a few and a race to the bottom for most. The 4th World Conference of Women in adopted the Platform of Action to realize ‘Equality, development and peace’. These goals were reaffirmed last week at the UN General Assembly’s review of progress 10 years after .

The aims for today’s Planning Meeting are:

sharing the wealth of experience and knowledge among all of you

improving business development services for low income women in the informal economy

increase the voice of women in the business arena

increase networking between women’s groups.

I hope you will have a good meeting and ILO looks forward to continue to support active and bright women and men to further equitable development in .

Thank you.