20 April 2017 | Fact Sheet

International standards on women and work in the Philippines


The report explores how international labour standards aim to improve women’s position in the labour market and in society by providing common benchmarks and minimum standards around the world. These standards are important for preventing a ‘race to the bottom’, allowing different countries to raise minimum standards together without undermining their international competitive advantage.

Two influential instruments in this area are the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and Resolutions, and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The ILO develops conventions and resolutions with the intention that nation states can incorporate these into national legislation. In 1999, the ILO adopted a policy of ‘gender equality mainstreaming,’ which requires that gender awareness be interwoven through all conventions and implementation strategies. In 2018, the ILO will seek to introduce a new convention addressing all forms of gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination against women, including domestic or family-based violence and its impact in the workplace.

The United Nations CEDAW convention, which was adopted in 1979 and has been ratified by almost two hundred states, positions women’s rights as human rights and focuses on eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. CEDAW requires equal pay for equal work, the right to social security, paid leave, and maternity leave with pay or comparable social benefits without negative consequences for taking maternity leave such as loss of job or seniority.


In the case of the Philippines, many of the domestic laws on women and work have been aligned with global standards as far back as the 1970s. The 1974 Labor Code, for example, embodied the principle of equal pay for equal work, and workplace support for working mothers. Additional protections are provided for under Philippine law including requirements for safe and health workplaces for women, the provision of transport for women working late at night, paid paternity leave and the elimination of sexual harassment and of violence against women.

Principles on gender equality were later enshrined in the country’s constitution following the end of the Marcos regime. Apart from promoting the equality of women before the law, the 1987 Philippine Constitution further underscored the country’s commitment to upholding women’s welfare, setting the tone for continued gender-focused legislative development.

However, the lack of mechanisms for enforcement is a major problem even in countries such as the Philippines where legislation on women at work already aligns with global principles. As the national coordinating body on all issues related to women, the role of the Philippine Commission on Women is limited to advocacy, monitoring, and capability-building. Its monitoring capacity is limited to data gathering, with no power to enforce mandatory reporting on the part of organisations.

Without concrete measures to enforce legislation and change workplace culture, pregnancy, childcare, and family responsibilities continue to be significant barriers to women’s career development, and women continue to be vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace.




  • International standards
  • ILO conventions and CEDAW
  • Diffusion of international norms
  • Problems with enforcement

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