FTP may have pro-women schemes

Written by Economy Bureau | New Delhi, Feb 25 | Updated: Feb 26 2008, 05:24am hrs
Even as a lack of political consensus is delaying the passage of the Womens Reservation Bill, the forthcoming foreign trade policy (FTP) may introduce pro-women schemes and sops for the first time.

As part of making the FTP more gender-inclusive, the ministry would give incentives for women entrepreneurs in the export sector, said commerce secretary G K Pillai. Besides, the commerce ministry is also expected to provide incentives for exporters who recruit more women, set up good facilities catering to the needs of women workers, pay them equal salaries compared to their male counterparts for the same kind of work and provide training to help them grow in the profession. The FTP annual supplement will be announced in April.

Pillai was speaking at an international conference on moving towards gender sensitisation of trade policy, organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).

According to Unctad secretary-general Supachai Panitchpakdi, increased exports were associated with increased employment of women workers in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Mauritius, Tunisia and the East Asian nations. He added hat researchers had found industrialisation in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore was as much women-led as it is export-led.

Wherever employment opportunities have improved, women have become increasingly empowered. However, he highlighted that women workers continued to earn about 30% less than their male counterparts, irrespective of the industry, region or location. Also, increasing casualisation of labour adversely affected women. Womens work is often insecure, temporary or part-time, with little protection and few fringe benefits, Panitchpakdi pointed out. He also called for consulation with womens groups for formulation of the foreign trade policy to integrate the gender dimension.

Also, countries should consider gender as an integral part of the trade impact assessment of the FTAs/WTO trade outcomes to deepen the understanding of gender-specific effects of trade policies, he said.