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Underutilized female talents

/ 04:02 AM October 08, 2019

In spite of significant strides in gender equality and women empowerment in the Philippines, many Filipino women are more likely to quit their jobs between the ages of 25 and 29—the peak of childbearing—to get married or enter motherhood.

This finding, among others, was the result of the study commissioned by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) to “identify the factors that determine a woman’s decision to join the labor force amid concerns over the stagnant labor force participation rate of Filipino women.”

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The study showed that rate had stayed within the 49 to 50 percent range in the past two decades. In 2018 alone, it was at 46 percent, the lowest in Southeast Asia.

According to the study, aside from marriage or childbearing factors, the low rate may be attributed to the country’s patriarchal family structure, stereotyped gender roles and religion.

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To remedy this situation, the Neda has called for policy reforms that would counter stereotyped gender norms and discrimination in the workplace, including the grant of extended paternity leave and stronger enforcement of the Telecommuting Act.

For college-educated Filipino women, quitting their jobs (or not entering the work force at the outset) for the sake of marriage or to start a family entails tremendous personal sacrifice.

It means giving up or reducing their opportunity to reap the fruits of the time and effort they spent to get higher education.

This is not to denigrate the value of motherhood because, as the saying goes, the hands that rock the cradle rule the world. Besides, under the immutable law of nature, human reproduction can be achieved only through a woman’s womb, whether natural or artificial.

The educated or talented Filipino woman who, by force of circumstance, has to leave the workforce in favor of marriage or motherhood represents a loss to our society of a valuable human resource.

If she earned her education in public schools, that means taxpayer money not getting any payback from her by way of employment or livelihood.

The age when the worth of a Filipino woman was measured in terms of how well she maintained the household or attended to the needs of her children is long past.

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Affordable education and liberal government policies have made it possible for Filipino women in recent years to carve their niches in various fields.

Notably, we have had two female presidents and Filipino women are routinely elected or appointed to national and local elective government positions.

In business, a 2018 survey of Grant Thornton International Ltd., a leading international consultancy firm, shows 46.58 percent of those holding senior management positions in the Philippines are women.

In Indonesia, it’s 42.56 percent and, in Thailand, 42.07 percent. The global average for those positions is 24.14 percent.

According to the survey, the Philippines’ high percentage may be credited to its nondiscriminatory policies on recruitment, paid parental leave and flexible working hours.

It’s interesting to note that gender-related barriers that once limited the extent of participation of Filipino women in work areas that were considered reserved for men for physique-related reasons have, by sheer necessity, gone down.

So now “demure” Filipino women are, among others, employed as commercial pilots, flight mechanics, heavy equipment operator, butchers and bus drivers.

However, there is still much to be done in increasing the percentage of participation of Filipino women in the country’s workforce.

It is a criminal waste of education, talent and expertise to allow the continued presence of circumstances that deter or discourage them from becoming more useful members of our society.

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