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Free trade accord may pose problems for female workers

Khaleej Times | 2 August 2008

Free trade accord may pose problems for female workers

From Suad Hamada

MANAMA — Problems of female workers are expected to increase with the full implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) reached between Bahrain and the United States that completed its second year on Friday.

According to a study by the state-run Supreme Council for Women, only 9.9 per cent of the top managerial posts in Bahrain’s private sector are held by women.

Women would have to find ways to cope with the tough competition the FTA brings with its open market policies.

The study was part of an effort to find mechanisms to tackle FTA affects on women and their empowerment in the labour market.

The study shed light on the SCW’s efforts to promote women as powerful members of the labour force and comes in response to a research conducted in 2006 that analysed 313 women working in industrial, textile, construction, financial services, and insurance and tourism sectors.

The study revealed that most women are working in services sector and are often denied the right to promotion on top positions in their companies. In addition, they also faced problems like inconvenient or late working hours, harsh treatment, poor work atmospheres and low salaries.

However, a businesswoman, Dr Moneera Fakhro, feels that the agreement could bring many benefits to women, especially in removing discrimination against them. “The FTA stresses the importance of gender equality, so discrimination against working women could be reduced after the full implementation of the agreement,” she told Khaleej Times.

“Ready-made garment industry, in which 90 per cent of workforce is women, would benefit the most under the agreement as factories would be forced to improve working conditions and streamline working hours,” she explained.

Dr Fakhro said that businessmen in many other sectors would also be forced to offer more privileges to their workers regardless of their gender.

Foreign experts also sounded positive about the FTA as US Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher Henzel highlighted in a statement that there were several areas in which the FTA had enhanced trade volume between Bahrain and the United States.

 source: Khaleej Times