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A Gender Responsive Occupational Safety and Health Policy: An Exploratory Study of Gender Needs and Gender Sensitive Indicators.

This project is funded by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education under the Exploratory Research Grant Scheme (Ref: 230/PMGT/6730090)

Aims and questions

Both men and women have roles in the spheres of production (of goods and services) and public life. The proportion of economically active women has increased dramatically in the world. The World Bank estimates that from 1960 to 1997, women have increased their numbers in the global labour force by 126% (World Bank, 2001). Today, women make up about 46.4% of the estimated global working population (ILO, 2000a; WHO, 1999) and making them indispensable as contributors to national and global economies.

Around the world, women occupy a niche area in the labour force. In paid work in the developing countries, women and men work at different tasks in agriculture (Kisting , 2005), mining, manufacturing and services. Women are more likely to work in the informal economy sector and they do specific types of informal work, such as domestic work, street vending and sex work (Chapter 6; Shivdas, 2005). They may work from their homes, in which case their work is invisible and may not be considered as work even by the women themselves. In general, women are found primarily in clerical, service or sales work (“Statistics on Women, Family”, 2009) and only about 10% of women hold professional jobs in developed countries and fewer in developing nations (Fact Sheet 2010, 2010).

A gendered division of labour is also found within the household; women and men do different tasks in the home (Frankenhaeuser et al., 1991). The contractual relations involved in work also differ by sex. Women tend to work more hours at home and fewer outside of the home, compared to men, and they usually take primary responsibility for family well-being (“Guidelines on Gender”, 2004; Messing and Elabidi, 2003).
In industrialized countries, there has been a rise in non-standard precarious forms of employment such as short-term contracts and subcontracting (Bamber et al., 2011). Women hold specific types of non-standard work such as part-time work and one-person independent contracting (Bamber et al., 2011; Cranford et al., 2003). Available evidence suggests that as a group, women suffer more from growing competitive pressures and cost-saving strategies, which can be associated with lack of security, limited possibilities for training and career advancement, and inadequate social security coverage in terms of old-age pensions, sickness insurance and maternity protection (ILO, 2000b).
Health promotion for working women need to take into account all three of their roles: as housewives, as mothers and workers. The effect of gender on health needs to be carefully explored to develop a better understanding of the relationship between women’s and men’s health and the social and economic roles of women and men (Lin, L‘Orange, & Silburn, 2007). A number of discussions have been ongoing about whether well-being is gender sensitive (Eckermann, 2000; Messing et al., 2003) but many have also acknowledged the treatment of gender as a factor of accommodating diversity at work which is corresponding to human resource good practice.

This research aims at developing insight on a gender responsive occupational safety and health policy. The approach taken to carry out the study has the objectives of identifying gender needs and gender sensitive indicators for women who are in employment in two different sectors namely services and administration where a majority of women have been reported to be actively in participation. Evaluating OSH from a gender lens will make OSH more sensitive to the different needs of the workforce and better able to make health monitoring more meaningful to the workforce. For the female workforce, this is a welcome initiative as it means better coverage to match the hazards at work. Thus, this is a step towards closing the gender gap mentioned by UNDP reports (UNDP, 1997) for women to have equal access to health.




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