Women workers continue to face job discrimination and are generally found to be paid less than men. This is one of the compelling reasons why a group of Filipino women workers is urging the Philippine Congress to legislate a national minimum wage and mandate companies to pay its workers the amount reflecting the current cost of living.

“The current wages received by the workers are no longer enough to provide a decent living for their families, and at worst, there are even times when women’s wages are lower than what men get,” said Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK) national spokesperson Lailanie Buena.

KMK supports House Bill 4898 filed by the Makabayan bloc that seeks to abolish regional wage boards and reinstitute a uniform national minimum wage.

According to KMK, the revival of a national minimum wage can help address the gender pay gap and discrimination that continue to haunt the country’s labor force. Citing clear indications of the prevailing gender wage gap, Buena said certain companies in Metro Manila impose discriminatory practices by paying lower wages to women workers.

“There are companies in Valenzuela that when female workers get pregnant or get married, they are transferred to another department where the wages are lower even though their work is similar or as heavy as that of male workers,” said Buena in Filipino.

She added: “Women often work in the wholesale and piece-rate system with extremely low wages. There was also a case where a husband and wife ran a plastic factory but only the man became a regular at work after three years, while the woman remained contractual despite working for almost six years in the said factory. So when it comes to wages and benefits, women remain at a disadvantage.”

Buena further pointed out that women workers in other regions and provinces are facing far worse conditions as a result of the irrational wage schemes being created by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards.

“The productivity skills of women and men workers, and workers in Metro Manila and the provinces, are the same. But why should the wages be different and lower in the regions and provinces compared to that in Metro Manila?” Buena said.

The group’s spokesperson also highlighted that the current regionalized minimum wage system has resulted in increased poverty incidence and worsening regional inequalities. Buena noted that the workers in Metro Manila receive P570/day while minimum wage earners in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are paid P341/day. Each amount is a far cry from the projected living wage of P1,117/day.

“It is necessary to scrap the regionalized minimum wage scheme that further lowers the wages of workers in the regions and provinces. If we study carefully, we find the poorest population in the regions with the lowest wages. In these same areas, the prices of goods and services are usually very high, which further reduces the real value of workers’ wages,” Buena said.

She added that in order to achieve meaningful progress towards gender equality, the government should take necessary steps to raise the national minimum wage closer to the living wage and ensure that it applies to all Filipino workers.

“Apart from significant wage increases, the government must also create enough jobs for the people, end contractualization, labor discrimination and other forms of violation of workers’ rights,” Buena said.