Thu, Mar 21, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Women at work

In Taiwan as in the rest of the world, the ‘second shift’ of domestic duties continues to be a major obstacle to female economic empowerment

By Davina Tham  /  Staff reporter

Trend Micro CEO Eva Chen, pictured in a file photo, was recognized on the Forbes Asia 50 Power Business Women list in 2016.

Photo: Liao Chien-ying, Taipei Times

Global auditor PwC this month released its annual Women in Work Index assessing female economic empowerment across 33 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The top two positions went to Nordic countries Iceland and Sweden, followed by New Zealand in third place.

Taiwan is not a member of the OECD and was left out of the index, but its market economy “backed by democratic institutions and focused on the wellbeing of all citizens” arguably fits the profile.

To find out how Taiwan’s 11.9 million women fare against their peers, the Taipei Times compares national data from this year’s report by the Executive Yuan’s Gender Equality Committee against the findings of the Women in Work Index.

SHARING THE SECOND SHIFT

When Taiwan elected its first female president in 2016, the result seemed to suggest that enlightened views on women at work prevailed. After all, the electorate had collectively hired a woman, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), for the job of leading the country.

But if Taiwan had been included in the Women in Work Index this year, its performance would have been middling at best.

Taiwan fares slightly better than the OECD average on two fronts: the gap between female and male wages (14 percent) and the female unemployment rate (3.5 percent). It just scrapes into the top 10 for both.

However, it is bogged down by a relatively low rate of female labor force participation (50.9 percent) and a sizeable gap between female and male labor force participation (16.2 percent), placing near the bottom of the index on these indicators.

The index measures female economic empowerment based on a weighted average of the above four indicators, plus a fifth — share of female employees in full-time employment — for which national data is not available.

National Chengchi University Institute for Labor Research professor Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君) says that the “second shift” of domestic responsibilities placed on working women remains the most significant obstacle to female economic empowerment in Taiwan today.

According to the Gender Equality Committee, married or cohabiting women spend more than three times as much time on unpaid work, which includes housework, childcare and caring for other family members, averaging 3.81 hours per day compared to their partners’ 1.13 hours.

Some women do not even get to try balancing work and family. Sexist stereotypes that women are more well-suited to domesticity and that their work performance will suffer after they get married or have a child can result in employers taking matters into their own hands, by withholding professional opportunities, promotions and mentorship.

In extreme cases, some expectant mothers are forced out of a job against their will, and against proper workplace practices.

In 2013, a machinery factory in Tainan hired Kao Ching-wen (高靜雯) as an accountant, but fired her just one month into the job after she became pregnant. The employer made Kao sign a voluntary termination of service form, which allowed them to withhold her severance pay.

“I was even scolded for causing inconvenience to other people,” Kao says. Despite the unfair treatment, she acknowledges that she was already somewhat fortunate, as women in dire financial straits would have had more difficulty coping with the sudden loss of income.

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