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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Globalisation eroding rights of working women in Asia: CAW

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Globalisation is increasingly eroding the rights of Asia's working women, who are falling victim to weaker legal protection, gender prejudices and poor working conditions, a women's group said Friday.

Women are seen as "dispensable labour," and because they are not regarded as the breadwinner, are often the first to be laid off, said the Committee for Asian Women, a regional rights body of 39 groups representing female workers in Asia.

Although women make up more than half the work force in Asia, "this has not led to more empowerment for women at work or at home," CAW chairman, Jurgette Honculada, said at the opening of a four-day conference in Kuala Lumpur on Asia's working women.

She said foreign direct investment into Asian countries in the past 20 years has promoted labour-intensive industrialisation, with a "feminisation" of labour as women have predominantly filled the low-income jobs.

In South Asian and Mekong countries, an increasing trend to hire women in "informal" positions as contract workers or temporary staff has seen a decline in social security protection for working women, Honculada said.

"In many Asian countries, growing unemployment and the trend towards the shrinking of the formal labour force in favour of an informal labour force has resulted in a significant loss of labour movement membership. All these threaten worker rights and weaken the bargaining power of workers," she said.

CAW aims "to create a voice for women workers in Asia," coordinating officer Lucia Jayaseelan told reporters. "We want to use all our resources to build trade union movements."

Some 90 delegates from 13 countries are attending the conference to discuss the rights of women workers, security and livelihood, working conditions for migrant women workers, and the situation of women in the work force in fundamentalist and autocratic regimes in Asia.

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