Gender and Care Responsibilities: Examining the differences for garment workers in Better Factories Cambodia

15 Oct 2020

Women make up the majority of garment sector workers worldwide but continue to carry a disproportionate burden of unpaid work within the home, including unpaid care and expenditures for children and other dependents. This “double burden” of paid and unpaid work can be compounded by excessive overtime, low wages, and harassment on the factory floor, among other labour rights violations, with significant negative consequences for life quality and well-being.

In 2018, Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), a joint ILO-IFC programme seeking to improve working conditions and boost competitiveness of the garment industry, completed an independent study assessing the programme’s impacts on working conditions, worker well-being, and factory productivity. This brief builds on data collected during this evaluation, to present gender differences in contracts, training  and promotions, overtime, wages, harassment and violence at work, occupational safety and health indicators, and life and job satisfaction. It does so by exploring differences between women and men, as well as between different groups of women, such as women with and without children, and women with and without infants. Marked differences exist in the experiences of male and female workers along different stages in the life cycle. Key findings include:

Lower-educated women with children are less likely to have an employment contract, to receive training on worker rights and new skills, or to be promoted. Overall, about 39 per cent of workers have a short-term contract of three months or less and 38 per cent have not received any on-the-job training, pointing to the need to strengthen job security and worker skills. Taken together, these findings suggest that to best promote an inclusive workplace, particular attention should be given to the needs of workers with lower education and with caregiving duties.

The majority of workers are concerned about low wages and overtime. While women struggle in combining overtime demands in the factory with household pressures, men are more likely than women to report that they cannot refuse overtime for fear of being terminated.

Harassment and violence at work are pervasive, and differences in voicing exist between women and men. In general, fewer women than men appear to voice concerns about sexual harassment. Among women, lower-educated women with infants are most likely to report sexual harassment. Additionally, less than 45 per cent of workers believe that the reporting system for sexual harassment in their factory is adequate. These findings suggest the need to prioritize trainings to combat sexual harassment, to establish grievance reporting procedures, and to improve voice and representation generally.

Men are more likely to report safety and health concerns such as coughing, irritations and backache, while women report lower overall well-being. Working toward improving occupational safety and health and workers’ job and life satisfaction, with a greater focus on measures to address their determinants, remains a key area for future action.


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