Atienza: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Gender equality in the Philippines

Atienza: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Gender equality in the Philippines

LET the naysayers say what they may: The Philippines has the worst Covid policy in the world; the worst internet connection; and the “un-safest” place in the world to live in... worse than war-torn Afghanistan, if one were to believe the Global Finance World’s Safest Countries Rankings in 2021 which ranked the Philippines #134 out of 134 countries.

The real good news is that the Philippines ranks #1 in Asia and #2 (next to New Zealand) in the Asia Pacific Region when it comes to gender equality in 2021.

In the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 conducted by the highly regarded World Economic Forum (WEF), a Geneva-based non-profit global organization for public-private sector cooperation, the Philippines is globally positioned at #17 out of 156 countries. A cozy position, indeed, considering that the United States is at #30, Australia at #50, Singapore at #54, Thailand at #70, Indonesia at #101 and Malaysia at #102.

What exactly does this mean? The WEF Global Gender Gap Report benchmarks countries on their progress towards closing the gender gap in four dimensions: 1) Economic Participation and Opportunity, 2) Educational Attainment, 3) Health and Survival, and 4) Political empowerment.

Based on the ratings, the Philippines scored 0.78, meaning that the Philippines is successfully closing the gender gap by 78 percent.

The country’s performance is exceptional in the fields of Educational Attainment and in Health and Survival. Education is a very important value to Filipinos and parents strive to send all their children to school, both male and female. The gift of life is another sacred value shared by all. There is no gender discrimination when it comes to saving lives, giving health benefits and accepting patients for treatment in hospitals.

The bad news is... well, bad. From an all-time global high ranking at #6 in 2008, the Philippines has been steadily dropping to its current position at #17 in 2021.

While our scores in Education and in Health remain above par, the Philippines has not made significant progress in closing the gender gap in the fields of Political Empowerment and Economic Participation and Opportunity.

The Report points out that only 49 percent of women in the Philippines are in the job market, and they work in low-paying jobs or in the vulnerable sectors. When a crisis comes, those in vulnerable sectors lose their jobs first. This became very apparent during the Covid-19 crisis when large numbers of women in the vulnerable tourism industry and the low-paying domestic services sector got retrenched.

Income and wage gaps persist, further aggravating any gender imbalance at work. While compensation is equal at job entry levels, it gradually changes the higher up in the corporate ladder one goes. For jobs of the same work value, men in the upper and senior management levels tend to be paid higher than women.

The most significant drop, however, was in Political Empowerment. Women occupy only 10 percent of the seats in the Cabinet, 20 percent in the Supreme Court and 28 percent of the seats in Congress. At the local government level, the situation is worse.

The political reality in the Philippines is this: the planning, strategizing, crafting of laws, decision-making and the implementing rules and regulations of laws still remain in the hands of men.

We probably deserve that huge drop in ranking.

It is no secret that many women enter Philippine politics riding on the coattails of men. Their husbands’ deaths propel them to power, as in the case of the late President Cory Aquino and current Vice President Leni Robredo. When “term limits’’ end the period of office for husbands or fathers, their womenfolk are compelled to sit in as benchwarmers. There is nothing particularly empowering or transformative in such situations, as the man controls the woman’s official decisions.

Only a very few women in politics have genuinely metamorphosed into true public servants, successfully stepping out of the shadows of the patriarchy, carrying their own mantle and in the process, becoming highly effective public servants running on their own merits. How few are they? Or should one say: How few they are!!!

An even larger majority of governors, board members, mayors, councilors and barangay captains in local government units, are men. So the actual implementation of laws often do not favor women. For example, funding for the Violence Against Women and Gender and Development Desks are perennially under budgeted. While the Philippines has an impressive number of laws favoring women, the actual implementation leaves much to be desired.

Many government officials choose to be complacent, hanging on to the fiction that everything is okay because the Philippines is still #1 in Asia. The fact that we have dropped eleven (11) ranks in 14 years is conveniently forgotten. That’s practically one step below per year, a viral downtrend that urgently needs to be stopped.

The lack of concerted political action for implementing meaningful reforms in favor of equal economic participation and opportunity for women has led to deeper poverty levels in the country, and consequently, to a burgeoning backroom industry in human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of women in many areas.

It’s time to set aside those rose-colored glasses before the Philippines ranks #1 in human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of women and children in Asia.

In that world, things can quickly turn ugly. Very ugly.


No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.