The ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries Calls on Governments, Employers and Unions to Focus on Eliminating Gender Discrimination and Harassment in the workplace

The occasion of International Women’s Day provides an important opportunity to reflect on progress towards gender equality in the labour markets of Pacific Island Countries.

Press release | Suva, Fiji | 07 March 2014
Suva (ILO News) - Political commitments to gender equality such as the statements by the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting and the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, both in 2012, are a positive development. Stakeholders at the highest political levels have publically recognized the economic and social costs to of gender inequality and agreed to adopt measures to eliminate all barriers preventing women from participating fully in all economic spheres.
Progress is being made. New employment and labour laws incorporated the principles of equality and non-discrimination, labour inspection services are being strengthened, women business councils are being established, and a growing number of employers’ and workers’ organizations are implementing initiatives on equal opportunity and treatment.

A number of individual women have managed to advance and to break through the glass ceiling. At the same time, stubborn and often profound gaps persist. “Women comprise more than half of the labour market, yet gender equality remains a critical issue in the Pacific” notes David Lamotte, Director of the ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries.  The rights of girls and women are often subordinated; their economic and social contribution often undervalued and their perceived inequality compared to men sometimes regarded as immutable.

Not surprisingly, their work is also simply invisible or simply absent from the labour force data – which perpetuates their inequality. Sexual harassment and discrimination in workplaces is a serious problem. Eliminating gender discrimination and sexual harassment is an issue that we must all tackle. For the female workers, it results in emotional stress, physical illness and trauma. For enterprises, such actions lead to workplace tensions, which may impede teamwork, collaboration and work performance, with increased absenteeism and lower productivity.

As the ILO Director General Mr Guy Ryder says, “It is time to do better…. Today we recognize the valuable and indispensable contribution of women in the world of work. We join our efforts with all who are striving for gender equality: it is also our common challenge to ensure mutually reinforcing action to secure steady progress to this goal.