Women still lack equality at work

Female labourers are still not treated fairly by many companies in HCM City and Dong Nai Province, even though the State has created policies to protect them, women workers and their representatives told the National Assembly’s Committee for Social Issue last week.

At a conference in HCM City and Dong Nai Province o­n the implementation of fair-labour laws, female workers issued the following complaints: they are paid less than their male counterparts; they are not given the same access to training courses; they face age discrimination; their employers don’t offer them adequate housing; and they are fired when they become pregnant or give birth.

According to a recent survey of 92 industrial zones in 12 cities and provinces, females – typically aged 18 to 35 – make up 61 per cent of all workers. Some sectors have a disproportionately higher percentage of female workers, including footwear, with 80 per cent. The percentage of females in the overall labour force has increased by about 20 per cent each year since 2003.

Even so, female workers’ representatives said many enterprises are not paying attention to gender equality, flouting a series of Government decrees, some of which date back to 1996.

What’s more, many of female workers at the conference were unaware of such laws to ensure their job security and quality of life existed at all.

Female workers did not get as many chances as male workers to increase their salaries, labour representatives said. Many companies did not make public their policies o­n allowances, bonuses and social insurance for female labourers – who then often wind up ignorant of how much extra pay and benefits they were entitled to receive.

The overtime pay for female shift-workers is very low, and not commensurate with their labour.

Women are not given priority to attend extra-skills training courses. Many worksites with female-heavy labour forces lack warning and guide signs, as well as training courses o­n safety and hygiene.

When hiring females, many companies show clear bias for those aged 18 to 25.

Motherhood brings further inequities for women labourers. Under the law, pregnant women and new mothers are supposed to receive extra allowances and pay raises. But some enterprises not o­nly shirk those obligations, but also have even docked the wages for such workers.

Some companies fired women who became pregnant or give birth, which was illegal, said Nguyen Thai Thanh, deputy chairman of Labour Union at industrial and export processing zones. Others had fallen into the habit of issuing o­ne-year contracts for their female workers, and renewing them perpetually until the women became pregnant or give birth, at which point the firms refused to sign new contracts.

Although this practice violated a law allowing companies to sign a maximum of two contracts with workers, the women had no recourse o­nce their contracts expired, Thanh said.

Disregarding regulations for female workers with young children, many enterprises do not offer the requisite apartment buildings, kindergartens, enough toilets or child-care support.

Business leaders said they simply did not have enough land, money or personnel to comply with the rules protecting female labourers. Therefore, they said, it could be easier not to hire women at all.

The Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Nguyen Trong Dam, said the State should further protect female employees by amending the regulations o­n women working in toxic environments, as well as upping the female retirement age from 55 to 60, making it equal to that of male labourers.