Women in the Philippines are more likely to withdraw from the labor force in their peak childbearing age of 25 to 29 years old, a new study commissioned by the National Economic and Development Authority showed.
The results underline the need for policy reforms that would counter stereotyped gender norms and discrimination in the workplace, including extended paternity leave and stronger enforcement of the Telecommuting Act.
The results of the study, titled “Determinants of Female Labor Force Participation in the Philippines,” were first released this week in step with the annual National Convention on Statistics held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas.
The study used the 2015 merged data sets of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey and the Labor Survey, generating a total sample of 63,327 males and 61,387 females aged between 15 and 65 years old.
It also employed a qualitative survey, holding focus group discussions with women groups, government officials, an Islamic religious leader and human resource managers from the private sector.
NEDA commissioned the study as the agency moved 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. The rate had stayed within a 49 to 50 percent range in the past two decades, and in 2018 — at 46 percent — was the lowest in Southeast Asia.
Apart from age, the study found culture – reflected in the patriarchal family structure, stereotyped gender roles, and religion – also affecting female labor participation rate.
The high cost of commuting reduces take-home pay and the heavy traffic lessens the time available for family/home care and as a result, the utility of working is reduced.
The study’s key findings and the corresponding policy recommendations are the following:
- Marriage and childbearing are associated with a significant decline in the female labor force participation, especially for the 25 to 29-year-old cohort. More patriarchal family structures reduce a woman’s employment rate by 8 to 13 percentage points. A review of educational learning materials and storybooks in early childhood to promote gender equality is recommended. Extended paternity leave and additional parental leave will give husbands a fair share of caring for their babies. Stronger implementation of laws governing access to childcare services in government and support for bills requiring daycare facilities in the private sector will be needed.
- Narratives indicate the desire of mothers with young children to engage in telecommuting work. The study cites the need to strengthen the enforcement of Republic Act 11165, or the Telecommuting Act, which allows employers to offer staff the choice to work from an alternative workplace.
- Labor force participation rates of women are consistently lower than those of men across all levels of education. The effect of tertiary education on increasing labor force participation is significantly stronger for women than for men. The attainment of a secondary or higher level of education does not increase the labor force participation of men. This highlights the importance of investing in the education of women toward the attainment of a college diploma.
- Protestants and other religious affiliations are the most likely to be employed, while Muslims are the least likely to be economically active. The study recommends countering discrimination in the workplace.
- Data revealed a higher absorptive capacity of women workers by the services and manufacturing sectors, while it found a disproportionate representation of women in industries that require more cognitive skills than physical strength. There is a need to spur investments in both the manufacturing and services sectors, and to eliminate barriers to women’s participation in their preferred occupation.
(Source: National Economic and Development Authority)