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Enhancing Digital Inclusion of Women in Rural Philippines

Researchers in the Philippines revealed that cultural hurdles and digital anxieties prevent women from entering the digital sector in rural areas.

Other impediments for rural women joining the digital work sector, according to research experts Paul John M. Pea and Vince Eisen C. Yao, is a lack of access to devices, consistent power supplies and connectivity.

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies released the findings in research titled “DigitALL for Her: Futurecasting Platform Work for Women in Rural Philippines” (PIDS). The study investigated the digital platform employment phenomenon in rural areas and the underlying factors that allow for inclusive and decent work for both men and women.

Even though digital platforms are believed to ensure equal access for everyone, the authors discovered that cultural obstacles had created inequity in opportunities for women. The issue becomes a cultural fallacy and inadequate female division of labour in the household.

Misconceptions regarding women’s inherent abilities, skills, and suitable employment (even among decision-makers) prevent women from obtaining more demanding or higher-paying careers. They were more likely to work on business services, sales, and marketing jobs than on technology and data analytic tasks.

Women are more reluctant to use technology because of digital anxiety. Even if they knew how to use a smartphone, several respondents admitted to being nervous about acquiring and using computers.

Online platform work enables more women to enter the labour field, particularly moms who prefer online work’s flexibility in terms of time management over full-time employment. However, because of the unequal gender division of labour, women spend less time on platform work and their careers: working women are still expected to conduct house duties and care work. Even when male and female entrepreneurs have the same responsibilities, women are expected to do more care work. Consequently, many women have left their occupations because they cannot do both.

Job prospects and remuneration also discourage rural women from working on internet platforms. According to the report, gender salary disparity in digital jobs still exist, with women earning 18.4% less than males.

Furthermore, freelance employees from remote areas may be motivated to establish even lower prices to get a project. Those who find online freelancing work begin as generic virtual assistants, with some working for below-market rates to undercut the competition. Others are susceptible to dubious offers or deceptive jobs that do not pay them for completed labour.

Aside from cultural beliefs, infrastructure impedes women’s digital participation. In certain regions, such as island Barangays, digitaljobsPH trainees had to traverse the sea to get to the town proper, where they could use communal internet-ready devices. DigitaljobsPH is a Department of Information and Communications Technology programme that trains and places people in digital jobs through freelancing.

Pea and Yao stressed the need for policy changes accompanied by attempts to digitise vital public services, particularly in rural areas. This will increase people’s trust in digital technologies, assist local governments in developing strategies to improve ICT infrastructure and training, focus on women from low-income households, and ensure that the supply of internet connections matches the demand.

Similarly, the study recognised current platform work trends and advancements that can promote digital expansion and adoption in rural areas. Offering incentives to DigitaljobPH graduates to start homegrown agencies that would match local talents with platform opportunities overseas, as well as securing talent through women-focused grassroots organisations and cooperatives that can give skills training and assistance, are two examples.

Both researchers also praised cooperatives and organisations such as FHMoms and Connected Women for their efforts in bridging device and connectivity gaps. For example, FHMoms allow mothers who stay at home flexible choices to participate in online freelance companies. Meanwhile, Connected Women supports donating devices to freelance women living in distant locations and crisis zones by private groups and individuals.

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