Cover Image
close this bookToward Gender Equality: The Role of Public Policy (WB, 1995, 88 p.)
close this folderChapter three
View the documentPublic Policies Matter
View the documentEqualizing Opportunities by Modifying, the Legal Framework
View the documentLand and Property Rights
View the documentLabor Market Policies and Employment Law
View the documentFamily Law
View the documentWomen's bargaining position in relation to household
View the documentFinancial Laws and Regulations
View the documentMacroeconomic: Policies
View the documentInflation tends to hit women harder than men.
View the documentSectoral Investments
View the documentUsing Targeting Measures to Narrow the Gender
View the documentInvolving Beneficiaries in Public Policy
View the documentGenerating and Analyzing Gender-Desegregated Data
View the documentWorking in Collaboration
View the documentStrengthening International Policies to Meet New Challenges
View the documentConclusions

Labor Market Policies and Employment Law

Discriminatory labor market policies and employment laws are widespread: examples are bans on hiring married women and restrictions on the type of work pregnant women may pet-form. Labor laws may also restrict female participation in jobs and deny women access to work settings. Even legislation that seeks to promote equal opportunity can have outcomes tot women workers. For example, generous maternity and child-care benefits tot women workers may make hiring women relatively mote costly than hiring men. perpetuating the gender wage gap.

The main issue for public policy its to ensure that fair and equal employment laws exist and are enforced.

Box 3.1 some NGO efforts to promote women's legal literacy

Schuler and Kadirgamar - Rajasingham (1992) describe innovative approaches by non governmental organizations to provide women with useful legal knowledge and tools.

The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) has launched "women and the law" projects in five English-speaking Caribbean countries. Using a participatory methodology. the projects aim to create awareness of the law. provide women with legal information that will be useful to them in their daily lives, identify specific areas for action, and influence overall legislative policy. The projects develop educational materials for legal literacy and offer topic specific paralegal training for women's organizations.

The legal literacy program of the Ugandan Women Lawyers' Association (FDA-Uganda) conducts legal literacy campaigns on specified dates each month in different districts. Pairs of FIDA volunteers conduct sessions, using role playing and discussions, on legal topics of relevance to women's lives and provide advice on contacting the FIDA legal clinic for advice and representation. In addition, FIDA and Action for Development broadcast regular radio and television programs on women and the law and publish pamphlets on legal issues of interest to women.

In India the Self - Employed Women's Association (SEWA) holds worker education meetings to provide members with legal information and offers one day training sessions on specialized legal information for community leaders. Members of SEWA paralegal staff research cases, prepare briefs, and argue all cases in labor courts for members. SEWA'S legal literacy efforts are part of its overall strategy of action for supporting self-employed women and women in the informal sector.

In this regard. the main issue for public policy is to ensure that fair and equal employment laws exist and are enforced. Such laws should cover employment and employment-related benefits and should not be applied in a way that restricts women's access to the labor market.

In many countries women are protected by special standards in the workplace. These safeguards are of two types. The first includes measures intended to end discrimination in the labor market by requiring equal pay for work of equal value or by prohibiting the exclusion of workers from certain jobs because of gender. The second type protects women in their role as mottles by requiring employers to pay the full cost of maternity leave and provide childcare facilities. restricting night work, and limiting work categorized as dangerous or hazardous.

The first type of labor standard is often difficult to enforce. although nearly 120 countries have enacted equal opportunity laws. In most cases the law is in place but is not enforced. Furthermore. it often applies only to the formal sector of the labor market. leaving large number of women in the informal sector with little protection. More concerted public and private action is required to devise appropriate for enforcement. In additions complementary measures are needed to increase women’s chances of entering the labor force. Such measures would include mote met-it-based hiring of women in the public sector and the creation of an appropriate regulatory framework that encourages the establishment of day-care centers private nursery schools. and kindergartens for the children of workers in both the formal and informal sectors. (Box 3.2 describes a day-care projects in Bolivia)

Many countries have laws that limit night work. over theme and the use of heavy machinery by women. While well intentioned. these laws. too. can reduce women's employment options by raising the employer's cost of hiring women and perpetuating the notion that women workers are less flexible than male workers. This adverse result occurs because women already tend to have lower levels of capital than men and are limited by traditional notions of what women’s work. Devising effective protective legislation for women is thus a difficult balancing act.

Effective laws to protect women must honor the fine line between ensuring sate working conditions for all workers, including women in the informal sector. and providing equal opportunities for all workers seeking employment. Standards relating to maternity leave and child-care benefits are common in the formal sector. To ensure that such standards do not raise the costs of female labor unnecessarily employment legislation should avoid having employers pay benefits directly. Maternity benefits should be funded through general revenue taxes

Box 3.2 day-care center in Bolivia to enhance the status of women by increasing their employment opportunities in other Latin American countries, and their knowledge of women in Bolivia are over represented , health, and nutrition. The project among the poor, and many live in will establish day-care centers to proficult circumstances. They are twice vice non formal, home-based, integrals likely as men to be illiterate, their child development for children unaccess to child care is limited, they the age of 6 in thirty-four poor subject to discrimination in hiring ban and purebred areas. Women and wages, and they are restricted benefit from the project either as by law from engaging in certain procure givers employed at the minimum ductive activities. wage or as clients of the centers. The Integrated Child Development children in day care gives women Project, financed by a credit from the more time to search for jobs or to in World Bank's International Development their current situations (Winkler opponent Association designed and Guedes 1995).

Or social security systems rather than by direct contributions from individual employers. In Eastern Europe and Latin America, however, this method of funding benefits has imposed a significant cost on the treasury, raising the question of how much should be paid and for how long.

One way of addressing this issue is for governments to encourage women and men to share the responsibility for childrearing by adopting legislation allowing either parent to qualify for the leave and benefits associated with having a child (Folbre 1994). Such legislation can be supported by changes in the tax system to ensure equal treatment of workers within the household and a margin tax rate on the earnings of additional workers in the household low enough to avoid creating a disincentive to women's participation in the labor force (Mac Donald 1994). These tax changes can be complemented by legislation that encourages absent to pay child support. Such laws are in place in many Latin American and Caribbean countries. but none systematically monitors transfers (Folbre 1994). Greater efforts to enforce the law are needed.