Online economy can create jobs for women, says DOLE official

Gender gaps in the labor market have persisted as evidenced by the low labor force participation of women.

This was according to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Institute for Labor Studies executive director Ahmma Charisma Lobrin–Satumba during a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

According to Satumba, who served as a discussant, the Philippines was one of the first countries in Asia to ratify several international conventions in support of women, enact gender-specific legislation, and formulate policies promoting gender equality.

Satumba noted that the online labor market or the platform economy has a huge potential to create employment opportunities for women.

Unlike traditional offline employment, Satumba said platform work does not require many eligibility requirements. Thus, it provides alternative employment opportunities even to those with limited educational and professional experience.

Satumba added that the promise of flexibility and the option to work-from-home allow women to engage in paid work alongside family responsibilities.

This makes the platform economy a viable solution to lingering constraints to women’s participation in the paid labor market, she said.

However, she lamented that the idea of promoting flexible platform work as a strategy to economically empower women had not been universally accepted. Some say that labor market inequalities may be aggravated by platform work.

According to Satumba, flexible work arrangements or the lack of employee-employer relationship is one of the major challenges faced by platform workers because platform work is outside the purview of existing labor regulations and social protection systems.

In addition, she said the flexibility afforded by independent platform work may not translate to positive gender outcomes since stability of earnings and better working conditions are prerequisites to women’s economic empowerment.

“Although there are reasons to believe that the platform economy offers immense prospects for women, evidence-based [studies], including [that of PIDS], revealed that the same structural barriers to women’s inclusion, which are pervasive in the traditional labor market, are also present in work mediated by digital platforms,” Satumba explained.

She emphasized the importance of having the right policy mix to address decent work constraints while harnessing the potential of the platform economy in terms of creating pathways toward a better future of work for women.

She also stressed the need for the Philippine Statistics Authority to improve data gathering through its Labor Force Survey to accurately capture the employment scenario of online or platform work.

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