Every year, Women’s Month is celebrated in March and International Women’s Day was celebrated yesterday.
This is the time when the achievements of women are celebrated globally and calls for gender equality are renewed. Gender equality is discussed in the context of giving women equal access to education and healthcare as the men. But what is not usually discussed here in the country is the need to empower women so they can be financially independent.
It is clear that there is a wide gender gap in the earning capacity of women versus men in the country. Based on the latest data from the Philippine Commission on Women, only 14.8 million women are employed while there are 22.9 million men. Furthermore, The Global Gender Gap Report 2015 by the World Economic Forum, shows that the average gap in the compensation of men and women in Greater China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines is 15 percent. Many women, even if they have an education, stay home to run the household and take care of their children.
I have attended financial literacy seminars which empower participants to be financially-savvy by them how to invest the money they have earned. But for women who do not have sufficient income or do not have any at all, this is a hard pill to swallow since they would have to ask their spouses for money not only for their household expenses but for their personal needs as well.
However, times have changed. More women in the Philippines are earning money through methods that can be adapted to their lifestyle even if they stay at home. Information technology has made available to women opportunities that were not available to their older sisters and/or mothers. Today, the sheer number of and the growing popularity of home-based businesses has increased in the last year alone due to the increasing awareness of Filipinos about e-commerce and the boom of foreign outsourcing that has given life to BPOs, freelancers, and home-based entrepreneurs.
Online marketplaces such as OLX.com.ph and AyosTo.ph has made it easier for Filipinas to be entrepreneurs who can manage their business while taking care of their children or their domestic duties. There are also online job portals such as Upwork.com, Freelancer.com, and OnlineJobs.ph which provide lucrative income to freelancers even in the provinces since the rates are set in US dollars. Real estate and insurance companies as well as advertising agencies are now also open to hiring remote staff for other functions such as call center agents, administrative tasks, sales, and graphic design.
As Senator Grace Poe said at the Go Negosyo Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit last 2016, “Iba pa rin kapag may sarili kang pera, iba pa rin kung ikaw ang nagtatrabaho. Hindi pwedeng ipanakot sa iyo na saan ka na lang pupulutin kung malasin ang pagsasama ninyong mag-asawa.” (It is really important that you have your own money, it is different if you have a job. You can’t be threatened with non-support if your marriage fails and you are abandoned by your husband.) This applies not only to married women but to all women in general. We can set our financial goals and achieve them no matter how difficult our circumstances. We can be financially independent through hard work and by being proactive in looking for opportunities to earn. This can make us active contributors to the financial health of the household as well as the community.
Kristel Silang is content manager at MoneyMax.ph, a financial comparison website aiming to help Filipinos save money through diligent comparisons of financial products.