THE government needs to make work life more acceptable to women of childbearing age as their presence in the Philippine economy lags participation rates in the rest of Southeast Asia, economic planners said.
In a statement Wednesday, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said that women in their peak childbearing years — 25 to 29 — are prone to withdraw from the workforce, while those who remain do so at the lowest rates in the region.
NEDA said that according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), “the rate had stayed within a 49 to 50% range in the past two decades, and in 2018 — at 46% — was the lowest in Southeast Asia.”
According to a NEDA study, “Determinants of female labor force participation in the Philippines,” NEDA cited issues such as gender norms and lack of policies that address gender discrimination and maternity needs in the workplace.
“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,” NEDA said.
NEDA said mothers of young children require flexible working hours and added, “An 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 day care facilities in the private sector will be needed.”
It said women who acquire bachelor-level credentials have much higher participation rates, highlighting the need to invest in their education.
“The effect of a 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,” NEDA said.
By religion, the NEDA said “Protestants and other religious affiliations are the most likely to be employed, while Muslims are the least likely to be economically active,” adding there should be safeguards against discrimination against women by their beliefs.
The NEDA study took in data from 63,327 male and 61,387 female subjects, aged between 15 and 65. The sample was obtained from 2015 merged data sets of PSA’s Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) and the Labor Force Survey (LFS). It also employed a qualitative survey and focus group discussions. — Gillian M. Cortez