Women at work on Mother’s Day Read Next

Published by rudy Date posted on May 7, 2021

By Ruben Torres, 7 May 2021, Manila Times

THE second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day.

On this day we send greetings and flowers to our mothers. It is also a day on which we reflect on the existential importance of mothers to the human species, to the economy and to the family. From the biblical Eve, if you believe in creationism, mothers have been and will always be the essential beings in the continuity of our species.

Of course, a father contributes but one tiny chromosome to fertilize the female egg, which the woman is left alone to nurture inside her belly for nine months. After birth, the mother must continue caring for her child until the latter is older and strong enough to fend for itself. The mother must feed, bathe, put to bed and initially educate her baby and still, in most cases, have to attend to the needs of her husband. All these on top of the work that she must do in the office or the factory. This is the multiple burden of a woman.

The reproductive work of a mother is largely unpaid and is not factored into the economic indicators. I am not a sociologist nor an anthropologist, but I suspect the maternal functions of a woman contributed to the development of patriarchal societies. In these societies, the roles that men and women play are culturally well-defined. The delineation of work outside and inside the home is clear.

In hunting and gathering societies, the woman was expected to carry her young child in her arms and provisions on her back while the man walked ahead with only his hunting weapons. In present-day patriarchal societies, the working wife prepares the food for the family’s breakfast before she goes to work. At the end of the day, she goes home to do her domestic duties. When the husband thinks that the wife has had enough time to cook dinner, he goes home. Of course, this is not true for all husbands.

A few years ago, I stayed in a hotel in Tokyo, which was across a commuter rail station. Each afternoon, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., I noticed that the trains were full of largely women commuters. I asked my Japanese friend why this was so. He told me that in Japan, priority to go home after work is afforded to women. A woman, he said, must be able to reach home early so she would have time to fetch the children from the daycare center and to prepare dinner before the husband arrives. This, I thought, was Japanese chivalry.

And what do the men do during the two hours after work? My friend said to look for them in bars, cafes and pachinko parlors in the city. Then I thought, this practice, even if it is part of their culture, is opportunism, definitely not chivalry. What is important, my friend said, is that men do not crowd the women in train coaches during rush hours.

So, the women have to rush from factory or office work to be home to do domestic chores while their husbands spend two hours drinking beer and wine while being attended to by Russian, Latin American and Asian entertainers. But this may be part of Japanese culture.

The reproductive work of women, while existential, affects equality among men and women at home or in the workplace. The Philippines has labor laws that prohibit discrimination because of sex and mandate equal treatment of female and male workers. We are leading in Asia in gender equality. The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 of the World Economic Forum ranks the Philippines the highest in Asia in terms of narrowing the gender gap.

The Philippines is closing the gender gap, yet there are still many problems that beset women at work. Despite anti-gender discrimination legislation, some companies still favor men than women in hiring, promotion and pay. This is largely because of the reproductive function of women.

Maternity leave provided by law for women workers is often the unstated reason of employers for discriminating against women of child- bearing age. Republic Act (RA) 8187 granted paternity leave of seven days with full pay for male workers. This could have reduced even to a small extent gender discrimination. However, RA 11210, or the “Expanded Maternity Law,” increased the number of days of maternity leave from 60 to 105. Is this law an added reason for the employers to further discriminate against women?

Work from home, which has become necessary because of health protocols in this time of the pandemic, has even exacerbated the burden of mothers who are at work. Work from home by mothers really requires some additional skills at combining productive work and reproductive responsibilities. At home, while working for a company, the mother is with her children whom she has to attend to.

Apart from gender inequality in hiring, promotion and pay, the working mother has another pressing problem in the factory and at home. We are referring to gender-based violence against women. We shall deal with this in our next conversation.

Happy Mother’s Day!

For after all, regardless of gender, labor matters.

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