Women’s participation in paid work is constrained by unpaid domestic and care work, and a lack of productive employment opportunities. According to statistics from the Department of Labor and Employment, 30 per cent of working-age women reported that household or family duties prevented them from participating in the labour market. The Philippines’ relatively high WEF ranking arises partly because despite barriers to women’s labour force participation, many women who are able to participate in paid work do access high-status occupations such as legislators, senior officials, managers, professionals and technicians. This likely reflects effective gender equality policies in these particular areas.
Thus, the overall ninth place ranking needs to be interpreted with caution. The construction of the WEF gender gap index masks underperformance in the economic and political spheres where many women are still excluded. Also, rankings of gender inequality are highly sensitive to the indicators used.
While the degree of gender equality in the Philippines, relative to other countries, is debatable, the Philippines has an extensive — and impressive — institutional framework to promote gender equality. The Philippines has ratified key international agreements, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the constitution affirms women’s equality with men, and the Magna Carta of Women requires the state to uphold women’s human rights.
The Philippines Commission on Women (PCW) promotes gender equality through a comprehensive strategy of gender mainstreaming and good governance. This likely contributes to the Philippines’ high ranking for education on the WEF index. The PCW utilises gender budgeting and auditing tools to strengthen accountability; implements specific projects, such as the GREAT Women Project to support women’s economic empowerment; supports sex-disaggregated data collection; and conducts research to make laws and policies gender-sensitive. For women able to overcome barriers to participation, gender equality is promoted through the Magna Carta and Labor Code which include temporary special measures.
But further advances in gender equality will require more effective implementation of some legislation, particularly acts relating to child care and women’s economic inclusion, such as the agrarian reform law. Current legislation on labour standards and contracts also needs to be better enforced. Improving the well-being of women requires increasing overall living standards, not just reducing the gender gap. Disadvantaged women need specific attention in a country with high levels of overall income inequality.
The Philippines’ institutional framework offers a good model for the promotion of gender equality. But the Philippines needs to address the key challenges of implementation and enforcement in order to eliminate gender inequality across all aspects of life.