Gender Equality Reforms
Vietnam’s gender disparities have come under scrutiny in recent years in part because of the global push for gender equality. Despite the nation’s progress in closing the gender gap in both education and labor participation, inequalities still persist. Recognizing this phenomenon, the Vietnamese government recently renewed its Labor Code, reaffirming its commitment to achieving gender parity through gender equality reforms. The reformed Labor Code aims to advance gender equality in the workplace. Vietnam drafted its revamped Labor Code in 2019 to go into effect in 2021. Here are five of its proposed reforms to promote gender equality in the Vietnamese workplace.

5 Gender Equality Reforms in the Vietnamese Workplace

  1. Equal Pay for Equal Work. The new Labor Code limits the gender wage gap in Vietnam by tackling gender discrimination in the workplace. Vietnam’s 2016 Labor Force Survey revealed that women receive 10.7% less than men, with the gender wage gap standing at 8.1% for unskilled female workers and 19.7% for female employees with higher education qualifications. The amended Labor Code “maintains the payment of equal wages for work of equal value.”
  2. Equal Access to Jobs. As of 2019, legislation denied Vietnamese female workers “access to 77 jobs” on the basis of sex, pregnancy or child caretaking responsibilities. These “prohibited jobs include occupations that are heavy and hazardous such as in construction, mining and fisheries.” The amended Labor Code removes these prohibitions, and instead, gives women the right to choose an occupation suitable for them.
  3. Paid Paternity Leave. Only women workers in Vietnam receive paid parental leave to care for sick children younger than 7 years old, perpetuating the stereotype that women are the primary caretakers of their children. Because males “have the same capacity to care for children and the home,” males should be able to take this leave as well. As such, the new Labor Code “now entitles male employees to paid paternity leave” so that this responsibility is equal. Gender discrimination both in hiring and workplace practices hinders women’s abilities to contribute fully and fairly to the Vietnamese labor force.
  4. Addressing Discriminatory Barriers. The reformed Labor Code seeks to combat discriminatory barriers. The law includes protections against discrimination based on marital status, pregnancy, disability and more. Female workers can now take daily breaks to breastfeed children younger than 12 months old. During menstruation, women can take a 30-minute break.
  5. Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Vietnam also seeks to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Statistics show that women constitute 80% of victims of workplace sexual harassment. The amended law provides a specific definition of sexual harassment to ensure justice for victims, including any form of physical, verbal or non-verbal harassment. The government broadened this definition of the workplace to include a wide variety of “work-related locations.” Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace “will improve retention and productivity of all women workers.”

Striving for Gender Equality in Vietnam

By combating gender equality in the workplace, Vietnam has the potential to better its economy while advancing women’s rights. With reforms to improve gender equality, Vietnam aligns with global goals as the fight for equality dominates the global discourse. Aiming to achieve a work-life balance for both men and women dissolves gender stereotypes. Business owners, employers and employees can now rely on a strong legal framework against sexual harassment. More importantly, the adjusted Labor Code empowers women and inspires more female workers to join the workforce. These efforts will inevitably help advance gender equality in Vietnam.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Unsplash

House of Trade
House of Trade is a new platform based on an ancient method: bartering. Inspired by the sneakerhead community, the House of Trade offers a fresh take on fashion sustainability while reducing the exploitation of underpaid workforces in developing countries and providing a safe and efficient method for sneakerheads to trade their sneakers.

House of Trade: A Trading App for Sneakers

One of only five startups chosen for the 2021 Covintus National Technology Accelerator program, House of Trade is a trading app for sneakers: an app that allows sneakerheads to use their new or lightly-used sneakers as “closet currency” to trade items with other users. House of Trade facilitates each trade using a mail-in system, ensuring authenticity and trustworthy bartering commerce.

Founded in April 2020 by Chris Holloway and Keren Nimmo, the team behind the scenes at House of Trade represents diversity and supports the colorful world of sneakerhead culture on a weekly YouTube podcast called Kicks of the Trade. The trading platform does not end with sneakers — the team plans to expand the platform to include the trade of a variety of other items, from luxury handbags and watches to streetwear and sports cards.

A Trading App’s Role in Fashion Sustainability

House of Trade reduces fashion consumption by offering its users a solution: the user’s unwanted items can stand as “closet currency” for the items they do want, lessening (or even eliminating) the need to buy factory-new fashion.

The fashion industry has a significant impact on the environment. The industry produces 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, equating to more than all the emissions of “international flights and maritime shipping combined.” In addition, the fashion sector stands as “the second-largest consumer of water worldwide” in a world where 785 million people go without access to clean drinking water. On top of this, the fashion sector contributes to “20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide.”

Pollution is especially detrimental to developing countries where the U.S. fashion industry outsources 97% of manufacturing and where toxic wastewater from factories often ends up in rivers and oceans. For example, in India, a country where the sacred but polluted Ganges River supports one of the most densely populated regions in the world, 88 million people lack access to safe water. One of the contaminants that make the Ganges unsafe is chromium, a compound for dyeing fabrics and tanning leather.

How Outsourcing Fashion Manufacturing Exacerbates Poverty

The outsourcing of manufacturing exacerbates conditions of poverty in countries where exploitative working conditions go unregulated. As an example, Nike as one of the largest makers of footwear globally sold a record 25 shoes every second in 2018. In general, Nike’s sales average 780 million pairs of shoes annually. However, the manufacturing of Nike’s massive product line is outsourced to more than 41 different countries.

By outsourcing to developing countries, Nike and other major sportswear brands can maximize production at minimum costs. But, low overheads for big companies come at a high price for the people who work in the factories. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), a worker rights coalition that comprises more than 235 organizations in more than 45 nations, the average salaries of factory workers in Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia (countries where Nike contracts much of its manufacturing) are 45%-65% lower than the average “living wage.” To put this into perspective, in March 2020, the Global Living Wage Coalition reported just 7,446,294 VND ($321) as the monthly living wage for a person in urban Vietnam.

House of Trade Offers a Solution to Fast Fashion

Several advocates and unions have called out leading fashion and sportswear companies for prioritizing profits over the well-being of workers, the planet and humanity at large. With these issues coming to the forefront, many consumers across the world aim to make conscientious shopping choices to alleviate these impacts.

At the forefront of fashion industry reform, the House of Trade offers an alternative to factory-new consumerism while ensuring that sneakerheads and fashion enthusiasts have access to the styles, brands and quality they desire. In a “global sneaker resale market” that projections have determined could expand from $6 billion in 2019 to $30 billion by 2030, platforms such as House of Trade are in the ideal position to maximize profits while providing a solution to alleviating the impacts of fast fashion.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Middle-class jobs in Indonesia
Less than 16% of workers hold middle-class jobs in Indonesia, with the majority of the population earning even less. With the COVID-19 pandemic making it significantly harder for people to maintain jobs, Indonesia is working to increase the number of jobs accessible to those suffering from poverty. However, while Indonesia successfully created 2.4 million jobs every year from 2009 to 2019, few offered middle-class benefits. Providing more middle-class jobs can be beneficial to people living in poverty. There are a few things to prioritize in expanding middle-class jobs to Indonesians in underserved communities. In order to increase the availability of middle-class jobs, it is important to focus on methods that will help people have more job opportunities.

The Benefits of Middle-Class Jobs

Increased availability of middle-class jobs benefits every citizen in Indonesia. Focusing on ways to create middle-class jobs can help alleviate poverty in the nation. Families with middle-class jobs live a better life and have access to essential resources. Middle-class workers enjoy the guarantee of more money and increased outcomes within the workforce. Workers feel more comfortable in a middle-class job with different resources available to guide them.

The Need for Middle-Class Jobs in Indonesia

When it comes to alleviating poverty in Indonesia, middle-class jobs help both those living in poverty as well as those no longer suffering from it. The lack of structural transformation, laborers’ transition across economic sectors over time, plays a huge role in the low number of middle-class jobs. Over the 17-year period from 2000 to 2017, Indonesia’s structural change only contributed 1% value per capita annual growth.

Other areas requiring emphasis include health and education. Only 43% of the labor force completed more than a lower-secondary education. Policies that focus on benefits received from middle-class jobs can encourage more people to want a middle-class job. It is also important to be attentive to different skills that are necessary for certain jobs. This includes informing Indonesians of what they need to know so that the people can be eligible for more opportunities. From emphasizing the importance of school to helping those in need, prioritizing these things can help increase the number of middle-class jobs.

Possible Solutions

There are other barriers preventing the creation of middle-class jobs in Indonesia and contributing to the nation’s poverty. Making adjustments to businesses within the country will make it easier to increase the availability of middle-class jobs. For example, households are responsible for two-thirds of Indonesian jobs, while larger employers and companies are scarce. There needs to be more focus on creating policies such as tax incentives and providing resources for workers. Another thing to consider is increasing middle-class jobs by improving the country’s workforce. Teaching younger citizens the skills essential to current jobs is one way to accomplish this.

On Track to Success

The COVID-19 pandemic brought more challenges to Indonesia, which resulted in many citizens not having employment. Some areas that need more attention to increase the availability of middle-class jobs are the education system and manufacturing industries. It is also important for the government to create policies to help workers. Indonesians will greatly benefit from working middle-class jobs with increased pay and greater access to much-needed resources. With these measures, one can be optimistic about alleviating Indonesia’s poverty levels.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

orphans learn life skillsNestled at the base of the Santa Bárbara Mountain in Honduras lies Santa Bárbara, a city known for producing sugarcane, coffee beans and livestock. The city is also home to El Jardin De Amor y Esperanza, also known as the Garden of Love and Hope. An orphanage that opened in 2011, the Garden of Love and Hope takes in children that have outlived their parents or whose parents cannot provide for them. This orphanage, though small, has an incredible impact on children through its ability to rescue them from destitute situations. Orphans learn life skills that will prepare them to be successful in life outside of the orphanage. One way the orphanage accomplishes this is through the use of its Selva Café, which helps the orphans learn real-world skills.

The Garden of Love and Hope

The Borgen Project spoke with Lukas Dale, a volunteer that traveled to the Garden of Love and Hope with a group organized through Olivet Nazarene University. Dale describes a home visit he did on his final volunteering day, giving him the opportunity to “experience the kind of conditions the local people live in.” The home “was a tiny 7x7x7-foot clay and mud box that had no plumbing and only one bed. It housed a family of grandparents, a mom, five kids and a dog.” Dale says the experience gave him “a new and more accurate understanding of the situation people in impoverished countries must live in.”

Though much of Honduras struggles with poverty, the Garden of Love and Hope works to give orphans the best resources and education possible. Its primary mission is to provide the children with food, shelter, clothing and medicine while helping them with school. Footsteps Missions significantly supports the orphanage. A nonprofit organization, Footsteps Missions works to send volunteers to Santa Bárbara to assist the orphanage.

Dale shared more of what he witnessed at the orphanage, explaining that the children were treated well by staff who are “happy to volunteer their time to care for the kids.” Furthermore, he explains that “There were many children and teenagers who didn’t have any tangible hope for their futures. A lot of the teenage girls had been raped and either had children to take care of or were just working through their trauma, for example.”

He describes the orphanage as “a very loving, accepting environment that focuses on giving the children hope for the future by equipping them with practical skills.” By providing children with safety from their former circumstances, the orphanage also supports the children’s futures.

Selva Cafe

One of the most pertinent ways that the Garden of Love and Hope helps children learn life skills is through Selva Café. Owned by the orphanage and Footsteps Missions, the small coffee shop’s funds support the costs of caring for the children at the orphanage. The café also employs children from the orphanage. By running the cash register, preparing food and coffee and serving customers, children gain work experience.

Dale reflected on his experience when he visited the orphanage. He said, “Footsteps Missions was also in the process of opening a café near the orphanage that would help fund the orphanage and give the children a place to gain work experience. Since the café was in the process of opening, we helped with some physical labor projects they had around the property, taught the owners how to use financial programs on the computer and set up a cash register for them to use.” The Garden of Love and Hope works to help orphans learn some of the life skills needed to succeed in the world outside the orphanage. It does this while serving the community through the production of coffee and baked goods that can be purchased at the café.

Importance of Helping Orphans Learn Life Skills

The concept of “life skills” means a young person possesses the qualities needed to succeed, such as confidence and personal and social skills to interact with others. The Garden of Love and Hope realized children needed to have both formal and life education, the latter of which only comes with experience. Traditionally, the family unit teaches life skills. However, since orphaned children do not always have a family to rely on, it is more difficult for them to acquire the necessary experience to succeed. By establishing Selva Café, the Garden of Love and Hope fosters a place to learn skills. Teaching children life skills will also give them the desire to serve their community, including those also in poverty.

Though it is small and relatively new, the Garden of Love and Hope and its partnership with Selva Café give the Honduran children of Santa Bárbara hope for their futures. By equipping children with valuable life skills learned through serving tourists and their community in the café, these children have the potential to rise above their life circumstances and grow into capable adults.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Pixabay

empowering Indonesian womenIndonesian women made significant gains in recent years but there is still more to be accomplished. Women in Indonesia are often well educated but cultural expectations and economic and legal structures still prevent them from entering the workforce. The employment rate for Indonesian women is 55.5% while for their male counterparts it stands at 83.2%. Indonesian women’s economic empowerment needs improvement. Organizations like The Asia Foundation and U.N. Women are supporting empowering Indonesian women in the workplace.

Indonesian Women’s Participation in the Workforce

Women’s participation in the workplace revolves around cultural, structural and legal barriers. Indonesian culture expects women to stay at home to complete domestic and childcare responsibilities. Because of these cultural expectations, women are largely responsible for childcare. This means they cannot achieve their professional goals. If a mother does work, it is usually to only provide a side income for the household.

An analysis from the World Bank revealed that if Indonesia added another public preschool per 1,000 children, the participation of mothers in the workforce would rise 13%. Surprisingly, in Indonesia, more women are currently receiving tertiary education than men. Despite this, most Indonesian women still leave the labor market after marriage even though fertility rates have dropped. Women who work outside of the house after marriage still only participate mostly in informal labor.

Within the informal sector, women lack access to support systems that formal employment has. Despite more women working in the informal sector, the wage gap for women is 50%. In the formal sector, the wage gap for women is lower than in the informal sector but still concerningly high at 30%. Additionally, women often work in the retail, hospitality and apparel sectors. These are vulnerable sectors, meaning women have little job security, which leads to higher unemployment for women.

Lack of Legal Protection

Although Indonesia has progressive maternal rights regulations, other laws often restrict women from achieving economic empowerment. According to the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report, there is no law that prohibits discrimination in access to credit based on gender. Additionally, the report states that daughters and wives do not have equal access to inheriting assets from their parents and husbands. These laws can prevent women from rising out of poverty by making it difficult for women to retain economic assets.

Indonesian Women in the Workplace

Expanding women’s involvement in the workplace is beneficial for Indonesia’s entire economy. Improving Indonesian women’s economic power and standing could potentially lead to large economic growth. By closing gender employment and wage gaps, productivity will increase and economic growth will accelerate. It is reported that if women’s labor participation in Indonesia increased by 25% by 2025, it would generate an extra $62 billion and boost Indonesia’s GDP by almost 3%. Improving women’s economic standing leads to better business performance and a better economy.

Improving Indonesian Women’s Economic Empowerment

The Asia Foundation and WeEmpowerAsia aid Indonesian women in the workplace. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit that works in 18 Asian countries, including Indonesia, to improve lives across the continent. The Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program in Indonesia partners with local women and organizations to help Indonesian women achieve economic empowerment. It has provided microloans for 42 women’s groups that have more than 1,500 women members. The Asia Foundation and these loans help Indonesian women build confidence in their economic decisions. The Women’s Empowerment Program works by empowering Indonesian women to effectively advance their development and economic success.

WeEmpowerAsia is a U.N. Women’s program that works to increase the number of women in Asia working in the private sector. In Indonesia, WeEmpowerAsia hosts its WeRise workshop. During these workshops, women entrepreneurs and workers learn how to overcome gender-related hurdles. During its first workshop in early December 2020, 41 female entrepreneurs attended. The workshops help women become more confident and assertive in economic situations.

Looking Ahead

Indonesian women face hardships and barriers to employment and economic empowerment because of cultural expectations and structural barriers. Economic empowerment for women is important for Indonesia’s economy because it generates growth. Programs and initiatives are working toward empowering Indonesian women in the workplace to ensure a better and brighter future for them.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

The Rise of Minimum Wage and Automation in PolandWith the increase of minimum wage and workers becoming more expensive, Poland is automating its industries and investing in technology that risks dramatically raising prices and halting job growth.

Poland’s Increasing Minimum Wage

The Law and Justice (PiS) party, which rules Poland’s government, has vowed to increase Poland’s minimum wage to 4,000 zlotys monthly. In January 2020, Poland increased its minimum wage by 15% from last year to 2,600 zlotys. PiS plans to reach its goal of increasing Poland’s minimum wage by the end of 2023. This comes from PiS’s pledge in the “politics of dignity.” The pledge’s aim is to bring buying power into Polish hands so Poland’s economic model is similar to their western European neighbors.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the series of minimum wage hikes is an investment in Poland’s future as well as an effort to increase its prosperity. Yet, the minimum wage hike brings about unwelcome side-effects. Especially the rise of Poland’s automation. Industries are implementing automation in order to shed employees and the wage increase.

Aiding Poland’s Workers

Poland plans to spend EUR 247.2 million, a total of PLN 1.1 billion, on relief for firms investing in automation over the next five years. This plan includes a tax break for entrepreneurs, allowing a 50% reduction in costs for investments in Polish automation companies. A statistic of “42 robots per 1,000 employees is definitely not enough,” admits Development Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz. The level of industrial robots in Poland is lower than in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The relief package looks to increase Poland’s automation levels as well as its economy, which Emilewicz believes is a condition for development. The rise of the minimum wage in Poland, its highest hike ever, will bring changes in wage dynamics among low-income workers. Companies will be expected to increase their remuneration to hold onto employees.

Krystian Jaworski, the senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB, mentions Poland’s minimum wage increase will impact inflation greatly. This remains true today as inflation came in at 3.4% in December last year, well above estimates in a Reuters poll. With the rise of Poland’s minimum wage, and PiS’s plan to further increase wages, Credit Agricole estimates the enterprise sector employment will be 3.5% lower in 2024. The loss equates to approximately 200,000 jobs.

Some companies are looking elsewhere in order to curb shedding their employees. Henryk Kaminski, who runs Kon-Plast, a manufacturing company, is “thinking of redesigning to get a better manufacturing cost” by limiting its use of plastic, which fulfills the factory sector’s aim on savings.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Women in CubaWomen have experienced oppression at the hands of men for centuries. The world is continually reminded of this fact in current cultural and societal practices. Different nations have made progress in recent years, but this is still a common and enduring problem. However, the information dispersed regarding this topic is commonly obscured by those in charge. Women in Cuba have faced these issues head-on for decades in their fight for equal rights. The long and complex history of women’s right makes it difficult to distill the reality of the situation. However, there is potential for improvement. Here are the key things to know about this pivotal issue.

Education

Compared to other nations, Cuba may appear to be far more progressive on women’s rights. According to the Havana Times, women comprise 53% of the congressional body, and they account for 60% of college graduates. These numbers portray a clear female dominance in areas of higher education and are much higher compared to other developed nations.

Women’s Organizations

“Women’s organizations” are still not welcome in the nation. A new state constitution took effect after the 1960s Cuban revolution that barred the legalization of women’s organizations. An exception was made for the already established FMC.

The FMC, the Federation of Cuban Women, is a communist-controlled organization intended for the advancement of the women in Cuba. This is not inherently indicative of any corruption. However, women are prevented from assembling themselves and are dependent upon the state-sanctioned organization due to the lack of organizational options.

The Workplace

Societal standards are still oppressive to women. Numbers depict women moving out of their roles in the household to earn degrees and serve in the congressional body. The caveat is that women are still expected to perform all the duties that come with running a household. This includes cooking, cleaning and childcare.

This “machismo” mindset is heavily prevalent in Latin American nations. Essentially, this relegates women to the stereotypical domestic roles. This is even applied to women who are practicing doctors, lawyers and teachers. This societal standard burdens working women as well as those who choose to not enter the workforce or pursue higher education.

Discrimination in the workplace is another struggle women in Cuba must face. Women still face societal barriers in how they are compensated and employed. Female physicians and professors are typically paid the governmental base wage because most hospitals and universities are state-owned. This means that women are usually earning $30/hour in these typically high-paying fields. Further, the congressional body that women composed the majority of does not have any actual legislative power. That power is found within the Communist Party, which is only 7% female.

A Positive Outlook

The situation for women in Cuba is difficult to navigate. However, there are statutes in place to assist women in their quest to achieve equal rights within their society. For example, the constitution has an article that specifically protects maternity leave as a right for mothers in the workforce. Furthermore, the accessibility of higher education promises benefits to women of all classes that will last for generations. In essence, there is a long way to go, but that does not diminish how far the women’s rights movement in Cuba has come already.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Greece
There have been significant, recent developments in the status of women’s rights in Greece. Some Greeks excitedly look toward a future of gender equality. Others are reluctant to certain changes and are holding steadfast to tradition.

The primary debates in the fight for women’s rights are mainly between rural and urban citizens. Women in urban areas are more likely to dismiss traditional notions of domesticity and instead seek opportunities in the workforce. However, women in more rural areas still hold fast to the status quo. They are much more likely to take care of the home and children while a male partner seeks out work to provide for the family.

A Brief History of Women’s Rights in Greece

  1. 1952: Women in Greece receive the right to vote. This was significantly more recent than in other European countries, such as England, which awarded women the right to vote in 1918.
  2. 1975: Article 22 declared a requirement for “equal pay for work of equal value.” Although, some sources report Greek women making only 75% of what the average Greek man will make, in the same line of work. This gap is most often observable among higher-paying careers and/or those requiring higher education.
  3. 1983: The Greek Parliament ruled Divorce by consent, legal. Further, the long-standing tradition of dowry, which requires a bride’s family to present her future husband with a sum of money, ended as a requirement for a legal marriage.
  4. 2000-2006: The government passed major laws, such as Law 3488/2006, to protect women from workplace harassment and improve equal opportunity employment measures.

The Current Situation

Although all of these strides forward have occurred, Greek women still seem to be at a disadvantage. In terms of E.U. countries, Greece is the lowest ranking in the Gender Equality Index, with a score of 0.122. Likewise, the country’s female labor force population, as of 2019, is 44.17%. Additionally, domestic violence rates seem to be on the rise, having increased by more than 30% in the last six years.

Furthermore, migrant and Roma women are, on average, at an even worse economical and educational disadvantage. For example, the typical Romani woman in Greece will spend less than six years in school.

Recent data reports that men make up around 70% of Greece’s total workforce and 80% of the country’s Parliament. Many women in the workforce remain in low-income, service and part-time positions — with only about 33% of part-time positions belonging to men.

In contrast, Greek women have made great strides in academia. More than 50% of Greece’s citizens obtaining university degrees are female. There is hope that these well-educated women will advance in career paths and assume leadership roles. In this same vein, leadership roles are one of the primary areas in which women are currently underrepresented.

Proponents for Women’s Rights in Greece

Many people around the country are in an active fight for gender equality and women’s rights in Greece. There is an ongoing discussion to address gender stereotypes and challenge norms established within the country, in nongovernmental organizations.

The Greek League for Women’s Rights has been fighting for women’s rights since 1920. Notably, it was a strong leader in the fight for a women’s right to vote in 1952. It has also founded the Centre for Documentation and Study of Women’s Problems and is still active today, fighting discriminatory laws and practices.

The National Council of Greek Women, founded in 2008, is a nonprofit fighting for the equality of men and women. The nonprofit recently released a statement from its president who maintains that although legislatively, men and women are equals — the country still has to reach true gender equality in practice.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou became the first female president of the country in January 2020. Many saw the vote for the new president as an optimistic mark of change and growth in Greece.

With an adjustment to public opinion and the presence of female leaders such as President Sakellaropoulou, experts believe that the country is capable of combatting historical barriers to women’s rights in Greece that still affect its culture, today.

Aradia Webb
Photo: Unsplash

ride-hailing industryAccording to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the ride-hailing industry is “an ideal industry in which to examine the opportunities and barriers that women face in the sharing economy.” Using data from Uber and consultations with global experts on gender, transportation and the future of work, IFC and Accenture decided to research the impact of gender parity on the global ride-hailing economy. Their final report analyzes data from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom to bring forth recommendations for ride-hailing stakeholders and companies across the sharing economy.

Women and the Ride-Hailing Industry

Among other findings, the IFC discovered that it is relatively easy for women to enter the ride-hailing industry compared to other sectors, and that working in the ride-hailing industry allows women to start new businesses and maintain those they currently have. Additionally, women who use ride-hailing services say that services like Uber help them accomplish household tasks such as grocery shopping, visiting relatives and dealing with healthcare needs. Women surveyed felt that using ride-share services increased their sense of independence and mobility.

Women in the Workforce

However positive these indications may seem, ride-share services must overcome certain barriers if they are to fully incorporate women into their workforce. For instance, to attract more women to both drive and use their services, ride-hailing providers must work to increase personal security. Women often cite security threats as one of their main concerns regarding the ride-hailing industry.

Additionally, gaps in digital and financial inclusion disproportionately affect women globally. This means it is more difficult for women to acquire resources needed to access the industry. These could include a smartphone or a car. Nonetheless, it was found that 40% of women would prefer a women driver when traveling alone or at night. The IFC reports that recruiting more women to become drivers in the ride-hailing industry could create a cycle that attracts more women riders. Thus, it would be in the interest of the ride-hailing industry to work to attract more women drivers. This is true not only to promote gender parity in the economy, but also to boost their own sales.

The Gender Pay Gap

A Washington Post article on Uber’s gender pay gap outlines similar barriers to women joining the ride-hailing industry. The article finds that Uber’s lopsided pay results from men’s more aggressive driving and greater experience in the industry. In addition, they also have a higher willingness to drive in unsafe, more lucrative locations. Uber drivers are paid based on time and distance. Therefore, they earn more making frequent, shorter trips, rather than fewer, longer ones. Assuming that aggressive and speedy drivers tend to be men, male drivers are positioned earn more than women. Changing payment structures in the ride-hailing industry might be necessary to reduce the discrepancy in gender pay for drivers.

Reducing the gender gap leads to national economic growth. That means it is in the interest of both private sectors and entire countries to incorporate women into their workforce. The World Bank promotes economic empowerment through the elimination of gender gaps in paid employment. Through diverse initiatives, they help ensure that economic growth is shared among men and women. The ride-hailing industry is just one example of how women’s employment benefits the entire economic circuit — from buyers and sellers to a country’s overall GDP.

Giulia Silver
Photo: o.aolcdn.com

Women in the Garment Industry
Breaking the ceiling of the minimum living cost per day remains a challenge for millions of the poorest people on the earth, especially women. Amongst the causes of poverty, the fact that women are often not part of the labor force is one of the biggest quagmires that keeps them struggling. However, one area that women in the developing world often work in is the garment industry. In fact, there are many women working in the garment industry in Bangladesh today.

Bangladesh’s garment industry’s products make up the majority of what it exports. The expansion of the garment industry is quickly pulling people out of poverty in Bangladesh. Women are the major source of labor, where they make up 80 percent of workers. One might ask whether the garment and textile industry could be a gateway for women in the rest of the world to escape poverty.

Demand for Growth

Despite the fact that international trade has recently encountered uncertainty, a report from Mckinsey pointed out that the demand for growth from major populated countries, such as India and Indonesia, will continually saturate the market. With the demand continually persisting, many expect that the supply will continue to expand as well.

Beyond Asia, many in Africa see opportunities in the rising garment industry. Case studies from the African Development Bank Group indicate that women make up a significant part of the garment industry in Africa. In Ethiopia and Cote d’Ivoire, the two major cotton cultivators in the world, 80 percent of garment workers are women. Moreover, these countries’ start-up entrepreneurs are largely women.

Lifting Women Out of Poverty

The rising figures of women in the garment industry excite people’s outlook on the economy, but this is not the final answer to lifting women out of poverty. The problems of delayed or no and low payment, forced labor, dangerous working environments and other exploitation of women pull the world’s attention and push for reform. From a global perspective, the campaign for humanitarian improvement is one major goal of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond economic growth, acquiring decent work conditions, gender equality and opportunity for education matter when it comes to empowering women workers.

In Bangladesh, the international garment industry used to benefit from cheap labor because of loose legislative regulations and awful working conditions. More recently, the situation of underpayment has received challenges. For example, garment workers in Bangladesh raised their issues of low wages and poor working conditions, causing unrest and subsequently leading to Bangladesh increasing the minimum wage by 5 percent. This may seem minor, but it greatly impacted the garment industry in Bangladesh and started the process of reform. Consequential bills, including the signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, constantly forge the formal framework to ensure the well-being of women in the garment industry.

The development of the global garment industry is a good hammer for women to smash the wall of poverty, but they still require more. The problems rooted in the most impoverished countries are not only “money concerned.” Social injustice and gender bias also influence the liberation of women. Luckily, the action of women and their social power is opening another window for reforms and improvement.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr