The working environment of women workers in Bangkok
Table of Contents
Working environment and well-being
The working environment is an important factor in influencing the well-being, capabilities, performance and health of workers in the workplace. A good working environment depends on the support and recognition for doing the work well. This includes moral support from supervisors and colleagues, material conditions such as the salary, the cleanliness, temperature, light, sound and the equipment at work. Material conditions are also important, as they improve the efficiency and performance at work. This article focuses on the working environment of women in Bangkok, which is based on the Labour Protection Act, B.E. 2541 (1998)http://cpfshe.cpportal.net/article/tabid/121/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/49/.aspx. The Act has set the criteria of the working environment into eight categories:
- Restricted working area
- Dirty working area
- Working area with bad ventilation
- Working conditions
- Dust, smoke, odor
- Inadequate lighting
Looking at the country level: Thailand
According to a survey from the National Statistical Office in the year 2001http://web.nso.go.th/index.htm, there were 1,843,208 women working both in the formal and informal sectors in Thailand that were affected by the working environment problems (484,353 women in the formal sector and 1,358,856 women in the informal sector). These figures represent 10.14 percent of women workers across the whole country. Out of the 8 categories described above, the most important issues identified in the survey were the working conditions, representing 45.01 percent of all women who have problems in the working environment, followed by the effects of dust, smoke, odor, then inadequate lighting and finally a dirty working area – which accounted for 20.18 percent, 13.73 percent and 10.71 percent respectively. The “other” category represented 10.36 percent. Figure1http://service.nso.go.th/nso/nsopublish/themes/theme_2-2-4.html In Bangkok, the survey found that women who had problems in the working environment represented a total of 86,565 women workers (54,739 workers in the formal sector and 31,826 workers in the informal sector), representing 4.70 percent of women workers with problems related to the working environment of the country. Out of the 8 categories described above, the most important issue was the dust, smoke, odor, representing 44.69 percent, followed by the working conditions, representing 35.32 percent. Problems such as a restricted and dirty working area, bad ventilation, noise, inadequate lighting and others, only ranged from 0.71 percent to 5 percent.
Looking at the city level: Bangkok
The graph below indicates that the problems of the working environment in Bangkok identified in the survey were different from the problems found at national level. Figure2http://service.nso.go.th/nso/nsopublish/themes/theme_2-2-4.html As a big city, Bangkok clearly suffers from the issue of dust, smoke, odor (which represents 44.69 percent). We can see clearly in the graph that the problem of dust in Bangkok ranksa very high compared to other issues. The rapid growth of the city is the main cause of dust problems and pollution. Dust levels were measured by the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.
Measuring the level of dust
The average short–term (24 hours) and long-term (one year) periods are measured by using a high volume of air (called High Volume Sampler Technique). Dust Particles smaller than 10 micron were the measure for the assessment. The survey of dust from the Office of Air Quality and Noise Management, Pollution Control Department, shows that during the years 2002-2011 the 2011 annual average is between 44.0 to 102.8 micrograms per cubic meter in Bangkok. The annual average starting from year 2002 was determined not to exceed 50 micrograms per cubic meter. The highest average was 124.6 in 2004 and the lowest was 73.4 in 2011, which means that it is likely to decline significantly. http://aqnis.pcd.go.th/data/main Figure3http://service.nso.go.th/nso/nsopublish/themes/theme_2-2-4.html Figure4http://service.nso.go.th/nso/nsopublish/themes/theme_2-2-4.html
The impact on the health of women workers in Bangkok
Nevertheless, the impact of dust in Bangkok is such that women workers are at a high risk of respiratory-related disease. The severity of the disease depends on the amount of dust inhaled. The dust can have longer-term and bigger implications, as it not only affects the health and wellbeing of workers, but also the economy of the country: If levels of dust can be reduced, it will lead to savings on medication costs, medical treatment fees and other costly health-related services, and avoid the loss of income from sick workers.
Dust is only one of the problems of the working environment of workers throughout the country. In order to solve these problems, the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare is responsible for monitoring the working environment in accordance with the standards of the Regulations under the Labour Protection Act, B.E. 2541 (1998):
- After a test in the working environment, supervisors must report the measurement and analysis of operating conditions. Then the security staff have to issue a warrant as a result of the report. The supervisors must keep the report at the workplace so that the labour inspector can check it anytime and send a copy of the report to the Director of the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare within 30 days.
- In addition, supervisors are required to monitor the health of the workers: are there risks to health such as the effects from the heat, light, or sound? Monitoring such risks helps the supervisors assess whether the workplace has the potential to cause injury or disease.
- This is also useful to supervisors in dealing with matters of compensation: if the workers get sick because of bad working conditions, the supervisors must pay a compensation. For example, if a company exports goods, these goods may be returned to the company if countries detect that the supervisors do not manage well the safety, health and environment that can cause the workers to become ill. The supervisors must abide by the law, otherwise they can be found guilty of violation or failure to comply with the law. It is punishable by both imprisonment and a fine not exceeding one year imprisonment to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand bahts or both.
Solving these issues will contribute to enhancing the quality of life of women workers and making the system work more efficiently, as workers will be working in full capacity and productivity, contributing even more to the economy.
- Gender Equality and Decent Work
- Women and Employment
- Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)