3 Nigerian Policies Hindering Workplace Gender Equality

This blog puts the spotlight on 3 issues that prevent women from advancing in the workplace. These issues stem from policy/cultural & legal barriers

Women have been subjected to a variety of patriarchal and unwritten policies all over the world and these policies have a significant impact on women’s labour market participation, especially in Nigeria. Patriarchy, culture, marriage, and religion, are some of the barriers to women’s labour-force participation in the country, as highlighted in our recently published report  ” Although more women are creating their own opportunities and demanding more, there is still plenty to be done to level the playing field.

According to an IMF analysis, a share of the gain ascribed to workplace productivity is really attributable to greater female involvement over time.

In this article, we will put the spotlight on three issues that prevent women from advancing in the workplace. These issues stem from policy/cultural and legal barriers to women’s participation in the labour market. 

  1. Working Hours And their Impact on Women’s Choice of Profession

Nigeria’s labour law purportedly ensures equal rights and the same regulations of employment for both men and women. However, women cannot work at night in certain industries like agriculture, manufacturing, mining, quarries or extractive industries, construction, and transportation. According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, women account for 75 percent of the farming population in Nigeria, working as farm managers, and suppliers of labour. Despite the obvious contribution of women to the growth of the sector,  75% of Nigeria’s workforce in agriculture alone is mandated to only work within specific hours because of this law.

Although there have been many arguments in support of the policy which purports to prohibit and safeguard every woman-employee who is involved in manual labour from the hazards connected with working at night, the legislation itself inhibits the advancement of women in the workplace.

  1. The Gender Pay Gap

According to the UNDP, Nigeria has one of the world’s worst gender pay discrepancies, with women under-represented in higher-paying, more prestigious occupations. These disparities are essentially the result of occupational segregation, the necessity for workplace flexibility, gendered preconceptions, anti-female prejudice, and a perceived role incongruence that most women face.

One of the primary drivers of the gender pay disparity in Nigeria is occupational segregation. 50% of Nigerian women are employed in seven occupations only. The majority of Nigerian women work in clerical, sales, health care, social care, and education, which are known to provide flexible working environments. Family and work-life balance is predominantly hard to achieve with high-paying occupations and therefore is a deterrent, however, they are also harder to secure due to the prejudice against women. Women are concerned about balancing family and work, hence, they are less likely than males to choose or secure high-paying occupations. 

Furthermore, women are often offered or paid less in Nigeria since employers assume men to be family breadwinners – an obsolete phenomenon. As a result, most women are hesitant to negotiate higher compensation for fear of losing the chance entirely.

Constitutionally, the state is responsible for providing equal compensation for equal labour without discrimination based on gender or any other factor. This suggests that men and women should be compensated equally for the work they do irrespective of gender. However, that is not always the case. 

  1. Extended Maternity Leave

Research reveals that, at the start of their careers, there are a lot of women seeking entry-level positions, but these numbers diminish when women advance in their professions, have children and subsequently put family first.

In current culture, women now embrace hybrid or remote employment owing to the freedom it affords. But there are many more women working in the brick and mortar structures and could do with progressive policies surrounding maternity leave. Various government and private entities in the nation have called for a reassessment of Nigeria’s 16-week authorised maternity leave. The present civil service norm in Nigeria provides for four months of maternity leave for new mothers. Expectant mothers are given a month before delivery and three months following birth. In addition, until the infant is six months old, breastfeeding mothers are allowed to return to work early. In comparison, qualifying employees in the United Kingdom can take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave,’ and are normally compensated, while the final 26 weeks are known as ‘Additional Maternity Leave.’

Paid maternity leave is essential for a variety of reasons. New parents require time to recuperate from pregnancy and birth, care for and bond with their infant (including, for the majority of them, establishing breastfeeding), adjust to altered family dynamics and seek postpartum and well-child care. A growing number of women are taking up the role of breadwinner in their households. Many of them contribute significantly to the family’s financial well-being. The great majority of women workers worldwide – around 830 million women – do not have proper maternity protection. And about 80% of these workers are in Africa and Asia.

With an increasing number of women working, it is nearly difficult to overlook them.  The impact of their contributions to the economy and their homes is felt by both her nuclear and extended family.

The Jobberman Gender Barriers report has more insights on the different variables that contribute to women’s underrepresentation in the labour market and those that hamper their economic and employment prospects. Download for FREE here

Bukola Okikiolu
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