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Jakarta Post

Female workers unaware of their rights amid pandemic: Survey

  • Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, July 27, 2020   /   03:29 pm
Female workers unaware of their rights amid pandemic: Survey Office workers walk near Dukuh Atas railway station in Central Jakarta on May 12. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

A majority of female workers do not know what to ask from the government to protect their rights amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit them harder than men, a survey found.

As many as 87 of 674 female respondents in 15 provinces said they did not have anything to ask from the government regarding the protection of their labor rights, while 38 women said the government should help them return to work, according to a survey conducted between May and July by the Confederation of All Indonesian Labor Unions (KSBSI).

The survey also found that 118 women did not have any suggestions for labor unions on how to protect their labor rights amid the unfolding pandemic.

Hundreds of the remaining respondents did not answer the questions and did not understand what they needed, the survey revealed.

“I see this thinking capacity issue as a very serious one,” Maria Emeninta, a member of the national equality committee at KSBSI, said in a virtual discussion on Friday.

“What is even sadder is that hundreds of them have nothing to say when asked about [the role of] labor unions.”

The survey also found that more than 57 percent of respondents felt a greater burden during the pandemic as they had to work harder to earn money while taking care of their family at home.

Women bear a greater economic impact of the pandemic as it batters industries like textile and health care, in which women make up the majority of the workforce.

In the textile and footwear industry, women accounted for 58 percent of the labor force, according to a 2017 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) reported that the manufacturing sector, which includes textile and clothing businesses, is one of the six pandemic-hit sectors, contracting by 1.24 percent year-on-year in the January-March period.

As the pandemic paralyzes a large part of the economy, the government estimates that 5.5 million workers will be forced out of work this year. As of May, around 3 million people were either furloughed or laid off, according to Manpower Ministry data.

The KSBSI found that 26.7 percent of surveyed women were furloughed and suffered pay cuts, but a majority of the respondents still went to work with a full salary.

With the pandemic battering small businesses, female entrepreneurs also suffered greatly as they own 60 percent of Indonesia’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Victoria Simanungkalit, production and marketing undersecretary at the Cooperatives and SME Ministry, said in a separate event earlier this month.

In general, around half of small businesses in Indonesia reported they had no more money or were running out of savings as a result of temporary closures to comply with pandemic restrictions, according to a survey of 525 respondents conducted between April 17 and May 22 by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Women also face greater work-related risks in the healthcare sectors as they make up around 70 percent of the workforce, according to data from Yayasan Pulih, which provides trauma-healing services. The foundation work on the frontlines in the nation’s battle against COVID-19.

“We have to think about the plight of our medical workers if we want to talk about women’s rights amid the pandemic,” said Rully Sandra, who writes for the International Non-Governmental Organization Forum on Indonesian Development (Infid). “They are not limited to nurses but also midwives, pharmacists and others.”

Indonesia recorded 1,492 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the total tally to 98,778. At least 4,700 have died because of the disease, while 56,655 people have recovered, official data shows.