By Arwa Gaballa
CAIRO, Nov 12 (Aswat Masriya) – Women are the main breadwinners in as many as 30 percent of Egyptian households, a role frowned on by conservative Egyptian society but increasingly important in a country plunged into dire economic straits by the turbulent politics of the post-Mubarak era.
Many of them are poor, illiterate and lacking experience of formal employment, and are forced into menial work in the informal economy, doing poorly paid jobs with no insurance or pension and involving exposure to the public gaze that attracts the disapproval of neighbours.
“Things were difficult before the uprising too, with those in power robbing us, but at least the little we had was enough to live on,” said Zeinab Abdel Fattah, 64. “Now we have nothing. Life has become unbearable.”
Abdel Fattah, who has a family of eight, leaves her home every morning at 6 a.m. for the city centre. Sitting cross-legged on a platform in the heart of Cairo, she sells eggs, eggplants and cottage cheese to passersby, but often returns empty-handed.
“No one buys anything anymore,” she said.
A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of gender experts found Egypt to be the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, due to endemic sexual harassment, a surge in trafficking, high rates of female genital mutilation and a rollback of freedoms since the revolution.
Egypt scored badly on work-related issues, too. Gender-based discrimination affects many women in the workplace and is rarely punished, respondents said.
While many Egyptian women have to work because their husbands died or divorced or abandoned them, others, like Abdel Fattah, support their family because their husband’s pension is small or his work is irregular or unstable.
“My husband was only a worker before he retired; he can’t read, you see. Now his pension is 500 Egyptian pounds ($72.57), which is not enough to feed us.”
Mona Ezzat of the New Woman Foundation, an advocacy group, said that while official data estimate 16 percent of Egyptian breadwinners are women, independent sources put the figure as high as 30 percent.
“Because the majority of these women are impoverished and thus are mostly illiterate and have no skills or experience, they resort to the informal economy, cleaning houses, street vending and so on,” she said.
The problem with working in the informal economy is that these women are not entitled to pensions or health or social insurance, and they are often exposed to physical and psychological violence that they cannot challenge, as they enjoy no legal protection.
Even if Abdel Fattah’s thin grey hair weren’t showing beneath her worn-out headscarf, the wrinkles on her tired face, her missing teeth and rough, dirty hands were evidence of the difficult life she leads.
Like her husband, Abdel Fattah cannot read or write, but all her children can.
“My six children can read. Some of my children even went to university!” she said proudly with a big smile. “That was when things were easier, before they got this bad.”
The New Woman Foundation’s Ezzat said: “The struggles of breadwinners have worsened as Egypt’s economy deteriorated.” She added that there is no real plan for economic growth, as can be seen from the increase in the number of street vendors struggling to scrape a living.
The economy grew by 7 percent a year in the period leading to the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 — part of the Arab Spring that swept North Africa — but has since slowed sharply because of the collapse of tourism and the fall in foreign investment.
GDP growth last year was only 2.1 percent, down from 2.2 percent in 2011, the state news agency reported earlier this month — worryingly low for a country whose population of 85 million suffers from high unemployment and is expected to reach 100 million by 2030.
Price rises have put many goods beyond the reach of average households, and this has led the government to draw up a plan to distribute basic supplies at subsidized prices.
In Abdel Fattah’s case, her already grinding burden is made worse by her neighbours’ criticism of her for working at her age, “as if it was by choice”.
“They think there is a lot of money in what I do,” she laughed, adding that her neighbours mock her for having to work when she has six grown-up children.
Ezzat explains that the way female breadwinners are viewed and treated in Egypt is a psychological burden, especially as many of them live in poor areas which tend to be more conservative and more critical.
Female breadwinners are often criticised for spending too much time outside their home without a male figure around, a cultural judgment that is not limited to poor neighbourhoods, Ezzat said.
Neighbourly criticism and social pressure often force these women either to take their sons out of school and send them off to work in their place, or to marry off their daughters quickly to shift the responsibility for earning the family income to their husbands.
“The sons are deprived of getting an education and the daughters are married off before their time,” Ezzat said.
ANA HUNNA CAMPAIGN
Rights activists and women’s rights organizations in the Middle East posted their thoughts on female breadwinners in a Twitter campaign on Saturday.
Hundreds of activists around the Middle East joined the online debate, using the hashtags “#Loqmet3ish” and “#anahunna”. The first hashtag, Loqmet3ish, means “a piece of bread”, an Arabic phrase used widely to describe making a living.
The campaign, organized by Ana Hunna (I Am Here), said that women are the main supporters of 33 percent of Egyptian households and families.
“Despite the fact that norms (are) transforming in Egypt, women are still generally defined as dependants and subordinate to men,” Ana Hunna posted on its account.
Ana Hunna started out in 2011 as an online campaign to empower working women, but gradually expanded and now aspires to become an actual initiative, one of the organizers, Esraa Saleh, told Aswat Masriya.
The campaign used to depend on making films to raise awareness of the need for gender equality in employment, but it is now looking for more activities that could have a greater impact on the ground, Saleh said.
“If we (female breadwinners) decide to not work for just one week, this society will be paralyzed,” Rana Allam wrote on Twitter.
“It’s time we recognized Arab women; the real heroes of our generation,” said Hebbah Hussein, another participant in the campaign. “Mothers and breadwinners will shape Egypt’s future.”
الأردن: 44 في المئة العاملين في القطاع غير المنظم
عّمان – نورما نعمات
السبت ١٦ نوفمبر ٢٠١٣
أعلن الأمين العام لوزارة العمل الأردنية حمادة ابو نجمة أن تزايد نسبةالعاملين في القطاع غير المنظم بلغت 44 في المئة من إجمالي العاملين، 26 فيالمئة منهم في القطاع الخاص و17 في المئة يعملون لحسابهم الخاص وواحد فيالمئة للعمال في المنازل من دون أجر.
وأضاف خلال مشاركته في ورشة عمل وطنية حول القطاع غير المنظم وأثره علىالاقتصاد الوطني أن «ما يزيد على ثلثي مشاريع هذا القطاع لم يتجاوزرأسمالها 500 دينار، موضحاً أن الطابع العائلي يغلب على ملكية المؤسساتالعاملة في القطاع بما نسبته 77 في المئة. ولفت إلى أن 35 في المئة منالعاملين هم من الذكور و11 في المئة الإناث، وتراوح متوسط ساعات عملهم بين 9و16 ساعة يومياً.
وأشار أبو نجمة إلى أن العاملين غير الحاصلين على الثانوية العامةيشكلون 56.3 في المئة، فيما تلقى 43.7 في المئة منهم تعليماً ثانوياً أوأكثر، موضحاً أن 82.9 في المئة منهم تراوح أعمارهم بين 20 و49 عاماً.
تراجع دور الدولة الاقتصادي
وعزا ظهور هذا القطاع إلى تراجع دور الدولة في الحياة الاقتصادية وبطءنمو الاقتصاد الرسمي وارتفاع نسب البطالة نتيجة غياب المهارات المناسبةوالمطلوبة للوظائف المتاحة بسبب الأمية والجهل، إلى جانب الهجرة المتزايدةللأيدي العاملة الماهرة وغير الماهرة من الريف إلى المدن، ما أدى إلى تزايدإفقار الريف وسهولة التهرب من العملية التنظيمية المحلية مثل الضرائبوالرسوم والتسريح المتزايد للأيدي العاملة نتيجة المنافسة الدولية ونتائجالعولمة، فضلاً عن تدني مستوى الأجور. وأشار إلى استحواذ إقليم الوسط علىأكثر من نصف العاملين في هذا القطاع بما نسبته 57 في المئة في مقابل 24.9في المئة في إقليم الشمال و18.1 في المئة في إقليم الجنوب.
وبيّن أن من الصعوبات التي تحول دون تنظيم القطاع حصول العاملين فيه علىالحقوق والامتيازات المنصوص عليها في القوانين المعمول بها، وعدم شمولهمبالضمان الاجتماعي، وصعوبة ظروف بيئة العمل، وعدم الالتزام بمعايير الصحةوالسلامة العامة.
by Laila Azzeh |
AMMAN — Around 44 per cent of Jordan’s workforce in 2010 operated in the shadow economy, according to a study announced on Wednesday.
“This magnitude requires intensified efforts to regulate the underground sector,’ Planning and International Cooperation Minister Jafar Hassan said during a press conference that revealed the results of the report, which was carried out in cooperation with the UN Development Programme, the Economic and Social Council with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation.
The grey market is characterised as salaried labourers who work in the private sector without contracts or social security, unpaid labourers or the self-employed.
“This is the first in-depth study of the informal sector, whose volume has always been underestimated,” Hassan said stressing that the survey is important in guaranteeing the quality of services provided to citizens through the underground market.
Noting that 56 per cent of the total labour force works in the formal sector (34 per cent in the public sector and 22 per cent in the private sector), the study showed that 26 per cent of informal workers were from the private sector, 17 per cent were self-employed and 1 per cent worked at (family businesses) without wages.
From a gender perspective, male informal workers constituted 48 per cent of the total workforce, while informal female labourers stood at 27 per cent of the total number of employed women in Jordan.
Of the total informal male workers, 19 per cent were self-employed, 28 per cent worked in the private sector and 1 per cent were unpaid, whereas informal female labourers in the private sector accounted for 17 per cent, 7 per cent were self-employed and 3 per cent were unpaid.
“Informal employment is traditionally associated with inferior earnings and wage inequality or emanating from mainstream poverty. But this is not necessarily the case, as some informal labourers are leading successful businesses and others are also working in the public sector,” Hassan highlighted.
According to the study, 30 per cent of informal workers was in the crafts sector, followed by services and suppliers, 24 per cent and then machine operators 17 per cent.
In high administrative jobs, the informal labour was a meager 0.4 per cent.
The concentration was in the retail, wholesale and vehicle repair sectors, at 30 per cent, followed by the manufacturing, 18.6 per cent, transport and stocking, 11.7 per cent and construction, 11.1 per cent.
Informal workers are less likely to engage in the ICT, hotels, education, health, agriculture and social services fields.
The study highlighted that, at 32.4 per cent, retail and wholesale trade, vehicle and motorcycles repair employed the highest number of informal male workers. Most informal female labourers were employed in the social services and healthcare services, 17 per cent.
Guest workers in the underground market constituted 25 per cent of those working in the private sector, showed the study, indicating that foreign labourers are mainly employed in small-and-micro enterprises.
Almost 80 per cent of informal labourers are not given work leaves, even in cases of illness or injury, and face job insecurity.
“We have conducted this study to regulate the informal market and ensure that workers are being granted their full rights, particularly health insurance and social security umbrellas,” the minister underlined.
He said the second phase of the study is in the pipeline, which includes a panoramic study on the informal sector in order to diagnose reasons behind employers’ preference for this sector, the impact of the under-the-table pay on workers and whether it is better to turn the sector into an official one and consequences associated with such a step.
The study will also address the impact of the unofficial sector on the overall economy, said Hassan.
The survey involved a sample of 5,760 families drawn from the 2004 General Census of Population and Housing.
The study was based on the 2010 Labour Market Survey carried out by the Department of Statistics in cooperation with Al Manar Project and the Economic Research Forum in Cairo.
- ©FAO/Antonello Proto / FAO
Family farming and smallholder farming are an important basis for sustainable food production throughout the world. While family farms tend to be highly efficient in terms of agricultural productivity per unit of land, those that produce on a small or medium scale have limited bargaining power and capacity to defend their interests in food markets.
Beyond an agricultural model, family farming is a way of life, where both men and women have different roles and responsibilities. As elsewhere, what men and women do and are responsible for is largely determined by what is socially considered acceptable. In many cultures, men serve more often as managers – making decisions about what crops to plant, how much land to use, whether to make by-products and where to sell the food. Their tasks on the family farm can also include preparing the soil for planting and harvesting, while women usually do the planting, weeding and post-harvest processing. It is the combination of men’s and women’s efforts that make family farming work.
The challenges family farmers, especially women, face also include the lack of a clear line to divide family life and work. National data from a number of countries show that most unpaid family farmers are women, who also work longer hours than men when both agricultural work and household chores are counted.
Family farmers, who tend to be unsalaried workers, miss out on benefits, such as retirement, maternity leave and child care. And here women face greater disadvantages. Female managers of family farms tend to own less land and livestock than their male counterparts, and have less access to financial credit and services, markets to sell their products and time-saving technology. Climate change, food price volatility and economic globalization also create difficulties for family farms.
To highlight the important contribution that family farming and smallholder farming can make to food security and poverty eradication, the year 2014 was named the International Year of Family Farming by the UN. “FAO and partners will hold consultations, encouraging countries to adoption policies that support family farmers with social protection programmes and rural services, including medical care and agricultural extension and training,” says Ana Paula Dela O Campos, FAO Gender Policy Officer. “If agricultural policies are designed to respond to both women’s and men’s needs and consider their roles in family agriculture,” she explains, “they will be in a stronger position to increase agricultural production and reduce rural poverty.”
What is family farming? Family farming, or family agriculture, is a means of organizing agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production, which is managed and operated by a family and predominantly reliant on family labour, that of both women and men. The family and the farm are linked, co-evolve and combine economic, environmental, reproductive, social and cultural functions.
Making the Invisible Visible: Valuing women’s work and challenging gender bias in agriculture and resource rights
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Women’s Earth Alliance
|Yashoda is slowly stepping into a leadership role in her community|
“Sometimes I wonder why I work so hard when the land is not on my name,” Yashoda continues. We are on a small family farm, meeting women farmers, who share how gender discrimination defines how women’s immense contribution to agriculture is often overlooked and undermined. Gender inequalities also erode women’s ability to access and manage land and other productive resources and pose as a significant barrier to promoting their economic security and self reliance.
|Women farmers are learning about the importance of seed saving
of native crops during drought conditions
|Veena Hassan, far left, believes that women need to embrace their
leadership at, both, the individual and community level
Women’s invisible work: Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than just help the women in the economy.
|Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than just help the women in the economy.|
A woman and her daughters collecting firewood on the outskirts of Berhampur in Orissa. Subsistence work done by women is not counted as an economic activity.
WORK defines the conditions of human existence in many ways. This may be even more relevant for women than for men because the responsibility for social reproduction – which largely devolves upon women in most societies – ensures that the vast majority of women are inevitably involved in some kind of productive and/or reproductive activity.
Despite this, in mainstream discussion, the importance of women’s work generally receives marginal treatment simply because so much of the work they regularly perform is “invisible” in terms of market criteria or even in terms of socially dominant perceptions of what constitutes “work”. This leads to the social underestimation of women’s productive contribution and also means that inadequate attention is typically devoted to the conditions of women’s work and their implications for the general material conditions and well-being of women.
This is particularly true in developing countries, where patterns of market integration and the relatively high proportion of goods and services that are not marketed have implied that women’s contributions to productive activity extend well beyond those that are socially recognised and that the conditions under which many of these contributions are made entail significant pressure on women in a variety of ways.
In almost all societies, and particularly in developing countries, there remain essential but usually unpaid activities (such as housework and child care and community-based activities) that are seen as the responsibility of the women of the household. This social allocation tends to operate regardless of other work that women may perform.
For working women in lower-income groups, it is particularly difficult to find outside labour to substitute for household-based tasks, which therefore tend to devolve upon the young girls and aged women within the household or to put further pressure on the workload of the women workers themselves. In fact, it is wrong to assume that unpaid tasks by women would continue regardless of the way resources and incomes are allocated. “Gender neutral” economic policies may thus result in possible breaking points within the household or the collapse of women’s capacity.
Social provision for at least a significant part of such services and tasks or changes in the gender-wise division of labour with respect to household tasks, therefore, become important considerations when women are otherwise employed.
The relative invisibility of much of women’s work is now more widely recognised. Since many of the activities associated with household maintenance, provisioning and reproduction are not subject to explicit market relations, there is an inherent tendency to ignore the actual productive contribution of these activities. Similarly, social norms, values and perceptions also operate to render most household-based activity “invisible”. This invisibility gets directly transferred to data inadequacies, making officially generated data in most countries (and particularly in developing countries) very rough and imprecise indicators of the actual productive contribution of women.
RITU RAJ KONWAR
CHILDREN IN A Khasi village in Meghalaya helping to grind paddy. The Khasis are matriarchal, and apart from other outside work, all the household work is done by women.
This means that the data on the participation of women in the labour force are notoriously inaccurate. Not only are the problems of undercounting and invisibility rife, but there are often substantial variations in data across countries, which may not reflect actual differences but may simply be a result of distinct methods of estimation. Further, even statistics over time for the same country may alter dramatically as a result of changed definitions of what constitutes “economically active” or because of more probing questions put to women or simply because of greater sensitivity on the part of the investigators.
The impact of social structures is reflected not merely in the data but in the actual determination of explicit labour market participation by women. Thus, in certain regions of India, social norms determine the choice between participation in production and involvement in reproduction and consequently inhibit the freedom of women to participate in the job market or engage in other forms of overt self-employment. The limitations on such freedom can take many forms. While the explicit social rules of some societies limit women’s access to many areas of public life, the implicit pressures in other supposedly more emancipated societies may operate no less forcefully to direct women into certain prescribed occupational channels.
All this is why the new book on unpaid work, Unpaid Work and the Economy: Gender, Time-use and Poverty in Developing Countries (edited by Rania Antonopoulos and Indira Hirway; Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), is so important.
The book combines methodological, theoretical, technical, empirical and policy-oriented discussion on this issue, which has been so understudied by economists and other social scientists. It raises two critical sets of questions: How does unpaid work affect the outcomes of the economy, and how does the paid economy impact the unpaid economy? How can the recognition of unpaid work be used to integrate it with development strategy? The first chapter, by the editors, provides an excellent introduction to the conceptual and empirical issues involved and shows the link to macroeconomic processes. Unpaid work can be seen as a subsidy to state provisioning or to private agents operating in markets, and either of these “externalities” are actually manifestations of a structural system that uses gender constructions to be exploitative and generate significant inequalities in time-use.
Several other chapters in the book provide evidence based on time-use studies in various countries, ranging from Bolivia and South Africa to India and the Philippines. The evidence provided suggests clearly that most unpaid work is performed by women who are trapped in a vicious circle of drudgery and poverty and is driven not only by economic circumstances but by the availability of physical and social infrastructure. This underscores the importance of providing quality public services (especially in health, sanitation, child care, and so on) and infrastructure, of technological advances in typically unpaid activities that are time consuming and demanding, and of greater attention to the management and regeneration of natural resources.
This book makes the important point that while better statistics and data collection methods are essential they are not enough, and the recognition of unpaid work should not remain confined to giving it greater visibility by “counting” it. Rather, the point is, through knowing and interpreting the reality, one has to change it. So first of all, one must recognise the various categories of unpaid work in relation to production processes and daily fulfilment of basic needs. Four categories are defined in the book: unpaid work of family workers in family enterprises; subsistence work (such as collection of fuelwood and water for the household); unpaid household work such as cleaning and washing; and care of the other members of the household, including children, the old and the sick.
This then allows for a better understanding of how the conditions under which this work is performed hinders the integration of people’s labouring capabilities with desired development strategies. It is obvious that unpaid work requires both reduction overall (through more and better public provision, better infrastructure and technological changes) and redistribution to ensure more equitable burden, especially across gender. But the different categories of unpaid work may need to be addressed differently in terms of required policy responses. Thus, some forms of subsistence unpaid work would definitely be reduced through more and better public provision, especially of basic utilities and services. But reductions in unpaid care activities require a more careful and sensitive approach, such that public provision is made with sufficient resources and in a way that does not impede early childhood development or the adequate care of the aged and the sick.
The issue of unpaid work is often seen as a “gender” issue, and indeed, because of the way that it is distributed in most societies, it is certainly so. But the contribution of this book is to show that it is much more than that and is actually fundamentally a development issue. Public strategies that are explicitly oriented towards reducing and redistributing unpaid work will do more than help the women in the economy; they will make economic processes overall more stable, sustainable and productive.
Volume 27 – Issue 03 :: Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2010
INDIA’S NATIONAL MAGAZINE
Ever wondered why mainstream economic indicators almost never took into account women’s domestic work and work in the informal sector, even though it plays a crucial part in the economy and society?
Did you know that the overwhelming majority of women in the MENA region work in the informal sector, yet their work remains unrecognised, unvalued and unaccounted for?
To answer these questions and go deeper in analysing the definition of women’s work and making women’s invisible work visible, the Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action is organising within the framework of the Sustainable Economic Opportunities for Women project a round of capacity building sessions in partner countries.
These workshops are within the continuation of CRTD.A’s commitment to highlight women’s economic participation in the region, with the long term objective of influencing public policies and actions towards the realisation of women’s economic rights and a reshaping of how economic indicators are built.
Following two round tables in Lebanon women’s informal work and economic indicators, the next capacity building workshops will take place in Egypt on the 25th and 26th of June and in Morocco on the 10th and 11th of July. During these sessions, partner organisations and their own local partners will discuss concepts pertaining to the definition of women’s work, such as domestic work, women in the informal economy and the gendered division of labour. Resource person Ms Bénédicte Allaert from the WIDE Network and Ms Rabea Naciri will facilitate discussions respectively in Egypt and Morocco around concepts and indicators while participants will also receive sessions on using social media for awareness raising and advocacy.
Participants will also share their own experience working on women’s rights in various local contexts and will strategize on the next steps to follow to raise awareness on the issue of women’s work and reach labour gender equality and social justice.
As the region is undergoing so many upheavals and transitions, it has never been more important to keep women’s rights at the top of the agenda and carry on our struggle for gender equality that translates in policy and practice. Stay Tuned for updates on the workshops and discussion on women’s work!