International: New ILO report affirms that the gender gap in the labour force is not due to religion

Bernama via WUNRN
A new global report on equality at work showed there are disturbing gender gaps in some Asian countries like India, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia but they are not purely due to religious factors.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said that in India, only 26 per cent of women are participating in the labour force compared to 84.1 per cent of men, a gap of more than 58 points.
In Muslim-majority Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, the equivalent differential is more than 30 points, according to ILO's "Equality at Work: Tackling the Challenges" released worldwide today.

The report said a cause for concern was that projections for 2015 and 2020 showed the differentials closing only slightly, with gender gap predicted to be greater than 30 in 2020 in both Brunei and Indonesia.

Asked if the gender gap had anything to do with religion in these countries, Tim De Meyer, a specialist on International Labour Standards and Labour Law Subregional Office for East Asia, said it was only one of the many elements.

"I don't think religion or culture is the single most factor that influences such decision (on employing workers) in these countries. There is no such connection... gender gap is happening worldwide," he said.

In some countries, men are preferred as women are considered too weak or family-oriented, while some employers are more keen to recruit migrant workers over local women, he said.

According to the report, despite major advances in fighting discrimination at work, mounting inequalities in income and opportunities and significant and persistent forms of workplace, discrimination was causing growing concern.

Globally, female labour force participation rates continued to rise significantly, currently at 56.6 per cent, but it was lower in South Asia, Middle East and North Africa.

At country level, there are also disturbing differentials. For instance, in Indonesia, the female unemployment rate is 13.3 per cent compared to 8.6 per cent men in 2006, while the rate in Malaysia was 3.8 per cent women against men 3.4 per cent in 2004.

On pay, the report said female manufacturing workers in South Korea and Japan are paid less than 60 per cent of the wages of their male counterparts while in Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, they are paid 30 to 40 per cent less.

The report also said discrimination on the basis of race and religion, social origin, age, caste or indigenousness, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status and disability existed in many countries and against migrant workers.

A recent development is the emergence of practices that penalised people with "a genetic predisposition to developing certain diseases or those who have lifestyles considered unhealthily".

Gek Boo Ng, the ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, said that to be more effective in combating emerging forms of discrimination related to age, lifestyle or genetics, solid data and information are needed.

Many jobs in Asia Pacific are filled by word-of-mouth or other non-transparent channels that could hinder efficient functioning of labour markets and perpetuate discrimination, he added.

By: D. Arul Rajoo