Ethiopia: Decent Working Conditions for Women

The absence of a policy on health and safety at work exposes them to health hazards and many of them lack basic facilities like clean water

Ethiopia: Decent Working Conditions for Women

The confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) has conducted a research on the situation of working women in the Ethiopian flower growers, textile and leather-hide processing companies. The study involving 400 women and 100 men workers and a series of focus group discussion with employees, managers, workplace union leaders and employers was conducted from March to November 2016. According to the study women work long hours without having sufficient leave and relatively with lower wages. The absence of a policy on health and safety at work exposes them to health hazards and many of them lack basic facilities like clean water. The study also confirmed that strong occupational segregation exists by sex. Some of the female workers also face gender-based harassment.

Speaking at a forum on women working condition held recently, Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Union (CETU) President Kassahun Follo said the main reason for the deterioration of women working condition in Ethiopia is due to inability to implement the laws.

"Despite the existence of rules, guidelines and proclamations, there is still limitations in their implementation. To address this gap, the government and other stakeholders are expected to exert concerted efforts," he said, adding "CETU is working with pertinent stakeholders including European Union to promote decent work for all workers. It as well works towards women empowerment schemes in trade union movements".

The research has also indicated that there are discriminatory recruitment practices against women on grounds of pregnancy and marital status. Factories prefer hiring workers having no children. There is also discrimination on the grounds of age - employers prefer young female workers perceived to be more efficient and easy to manage.

As far as employment security is concerned, the study shows seven out of ten workers sign employment contract, with almost half of the sample workers with written employment agreement. Though six out of ten respondents have indefinite period of contract, a significant number of workers are employed on casual and temporary basis without signing contracts with their respective employers. There are 52 workers (10.4%) employees with fixed term contract and 146 workers (29.2%) did not know under what terms they were employed, largely because they were not made to sign any contract with the employer.

CETU Women Affairs Head Rahel Ayele said on the forum that the absence of formal contract is among the major obstacles in providing social security services for women.

"Most working women in Ethiopia do not have written employment contracts. Because of this they cannot get social funds which are basic for their livelihood. We have been working on awareness creation activities to alleviate the problems," she noted.

Working hours and leave are another challenges faced by Ethiopian working women. About one in ten workers indicated that they work for as many as 9 hours a day and 7.9% of surveyed workers have said that they were obliged to work the week round. Three out of ten workers were not entitled to annual leave and 15% were not entitled to paid sick-leave days, while 6.6% of the workers were not entitled to any sick-leave at all. Moreover, only half of the employees are free to choose whether or not to work overtime; sometimes even working for free.

There are limitations regarding training and career advancement schemes of women, according to the study. Career advancement in industries is limited. Since the majority of workers interviewed did not participate in training programs in their respective companies, the ability to access positions of greater responsibility is even more difficult. About 89% of the respondents had never been promoted and six out of ten workers (59.4%) have not taken any type of training since they joined the factories.

Besides, Ethiopian working women have plenty of problems related to wage and benefits, health and safety. The finding drags into light women are lower wage earners compared to their men colleagues. Because of this women could not cope up with the over increasing food and service price. In addition to this, the absence of strict health and safety policy has been affecting working women in the country. Most of the respondents in the survey indicated that their factories lack health and safety facilities. Around seven in ten sample workers indicated that their employers did not provide them with protective equipment, clothing and other materials, good ventilation and a reasonable working temperature, clean workplace with appropriate waste containers and they have not been trained and consulted on health and safety issues.

CETU President Kassahun Follo stressed that strict rules and guidelines would alleviate the problems Ethiopian working women facing. And he believes adding that the right to full employment, social protection and favorable working environment could be maintained by implementing binding rules.

The participants of the forum have urged CETU and other concerning bodies to give attention to creating decent working environment so as to speed up the economic growth of the country.

They also called for further investigative studies on areas such as domestic violence as well as investigation on the safety and security of women who work as housemaids both within their homeland and abroad.

Finally, the report provides a number of recommendations for the employers and their organization. Awareness raising activities, promoting social dialogue to improve industrial relations, providing written contract for all workers, ensuring decent minimum wage, reducing gender-based division of labor, guaranteeing basic facilities for workers, implementing health and safety policies are among the basic needs that should be addressed vigorously, the study recommended.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government has been striving to safeguard the rights of Ethiopian women. Besides, women empowerment has been given huge priority in the Growth and Transformation Plans (GTP1 and 2). The government has designed feasible policy which can empower women in social, economic and political aspects. In addition to this, it has been addressing the root causes of domestic violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation as well as taking steps to enforce and support legislation to protect women and their children from gender-based violence.

Source: Ethiopian Herald

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