The banking sector is not women friendly- CEGENSA

A research by the Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) of the University of Ghana, on Wednesday revealed gross gender disparities and discrimination against women in the banking and domestic sectors.

It said workers of the sector were made to work for longer hours and even on weekends to meet the demands of their clients, without considering the health-related and social effect of their activities.

The study revealed the lack of recognition of social arrangements for employee, particularly females of the banking sector as a critical disincentive to their drive for quality output but attributed the challenge to current increase in competition in the banking sector which had affected the structure of work and the demands made on workers.

Professor Dzodzi Tsikata, Head of CEGENSA, in an address at a one-day meeting to discuss findings and policy implications of a three-year research project by the centre, on the changing character of women’s work in Ghana, argued that notwithstanding the current competitions in the sector, banks should also be cognizant of the changing nature of work for their staff and purposefully develop supports for them.

She said such supports should include training as well as life skills training and the creation of more spaces and time for workers aimed at de-stressing, outside of the annual Christmas parties and fun games that were usually the convention of banks.

The study under the theme, “Promoting Decent Work for Women in the Banking and Domestic Sectors in Ghana,” examined women’s work in the area of banking and in paid domestic work.

She said the gender disparities and discrimination against women in terms of status and promotion in the banking sector were unacceptable and must be critically looked at.

According to her, women were often left out of the promotion ladder in their quest to perform their biological duties as mothers and often denied their resting hours after their maternity leave.

Prof. Tsikata mentioned instances when women especially, nursing mothers were deprived of the legally accepted hour of breastfeeding or half-day work in order to attend to their babies adding, this could endanger the health of both mother and child and threaten the survival of a healthy generation.

She noted that both the banking and domestic sectors had seen significant changes since the 1990s, when economic liberalisation policies assumed global dimensions.

She indicated that while domestic work was increasingly being procured through agents and agencies, the banking sector which was traditionally seen as the bastion of formality and long-term employment was also changing with the introduction of labour agencies into the sector.

“Their particularities notwithstanding, the two sectors are illustrative of the changing character of women’s livelihoods and its implications for their rights in Ghana.”

She explained that the research sought to create a gender profile for the domestic and banking sectors, and also a profile of the agencies involved in the sectors, while examining the changes in labour conditions and implications for employment security and the social security of women workers in the banking and domestic sectors.

It also explored the relationship between reproductive and productive work in the domestic and banking sectors and examined ways in which reproductive work differentiates women and men’s experiences of change in the domestic and banking sectors.

It analyses how informalisation and changing nature of woman’s work were affecting the exercise and enjoyment of their economic citizenship.

Dr Akua Anyidoho, a Researcher at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSUR), University of Ghana, said the findings suggested that the momentous changes in the labour markets as a result of the financial sector liberalisation had reinforced the informalisation of work in both banking and domestic sectors, and created new dichotomies between permanent and casual workers, while promoting a generally insecure work climate.

She said while domestic work was increasingly recognised as work, it had not eliminated informal recruitment practices, poor conditions of work and the constant search of domestic workers for better jobs in other sectors.

According to her, the impact of these processes had been gendered because of the gender segmentation of work in both sectors.

She suggested the revision of the Labour Act to recognise the status of agency workers and define their labour relations with the employment agencies and receiving organizations, adding, the uncertainty surrounding agency workers made it easy for workers to be exploited.

Dr Anyidoho also emphasized on the importance of labour unions in promoting the unionization of agency workers to prevent such exploitations.

She said human resource policies of banks should recognise gender differences in terms of maternity leave which was also a legal requirement, while domestic workers needed special regulation beyond the current provisions of the Labour Act to protect their jobs.

“The Act must be revised to make provisions for the regulation of domestic work and may require an addendum to the Act or Regulations under the Act and should cover among other things, job specification, hours of work, remuneration, days off and leave periods,” she said.

“In addition, regulations should specify conditions for live-in and live-out domestics, domestic who work for several employers and documents involved in their employer’s income generation activities.

She said while the Labour Act states that its terms and conditions applied to all workers, it does not sufficiently take into consideration the particular character of domestic work adding, the only provision in the Act for domestic workers was to stipulate the fact that regulation regarding rest periods and maximum hours of work in a week did not apply to them.

She also said the law recognises that domestic workers should be paid regularly and in cash, keeping in mind the minimum wage, while ensuring that employers respected provisions of the Domestic Violence Act on violence towards domestic workers.

She called for a legislation to regulate more clearly the activities of public and private employment agencies as well as informal agencies and agents and ensure that in their recruitment practices, they did not reinforce the gender segmentation of the labour force. GNA

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