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Migrant women workers lack sexual health services

Update: August, 15/2014 - 08:56
A peer educator from Marie Stopes International Vietnam talks about sexual and reproductive health to women workers at Pou Chen Vietnam's shoe factory in Dong Nai Province. There is a major shortage of sexual and reproductive health services for women workers in labour-intensive industries, most of whom are migrants. — VNS Photo Ho Hang
HCM CITY (VNS) — There is a huge gap in sexual and reproductive health services for women workers, particularly migrants working in labour-intensive industries, experts have said.

Women made up a large part of the workforce in labour-intensive industries such as garment and textile, where 80 per cent of the workers were female, Vo Tan Thanh, director of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry's office in HCM City, said.

"Enterprises have made many efforts to improve working conditions for workers and build sound relations in their factories. This is a key to increasing labour productivity and maintaining a sustainable business operation.

"However, sexual and reproductive health services for female workers are yet to meet the need," he told a workshop held on Tuesday in HCM City.

Most enterprises fail to fully comply with regulations and policies on female workers, especially sexual and reproductive health care, he said.

Lack of specific and practical regulations, professional officials, and effective information support for female workers hindered improvement to working conditions and sexual and reproductive health services for women workers, he added.

Nguyen Van Tan, deputy head of the General Department for Population and Family Planning, said the proportion of migrant women workers without access to information and services related to sexual and reproductive health remained high.

Poor living conditions and working environment as well as poor knowledge and limited access to information and services related to sexual and reproductive health and family planning increased the risks of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, unsafe abortions, and infertility among other potential risks, he said.

He called for co-operation among enterprises for improving sexual and reproductive health of workers and family planning.

This would benefit them since it helped increase productivity and reduce absenteeism and turnover rate among workers, he added.

"Most enterprises fail to fully comply with regulations and policies on female workers, especially sexual and reproductive health care. " said Vo Van Thanh. — VNS Photo Ho Hang

Pham Nguyen Cuong, former deputy head of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs's Gender Equality Department, said most migrant workers were not supported legally by local authorities and they were out of reach of basic social services.

"They are vulnerable and can hardly get access to social protection programmes.

"Most social services are for those who have permanent residence, making it difficult for migrant workers to access land, credit, entertainment, education, or healthcare," Cuong said.

In order to increase their incomes to send back home, they had to accept heavy, hazardous, or dangerous jobs involving long working hours. They lived in poor conditions and were unable to afford expenditure on living and health care costs, leading to risk of declining health and debilitation, he said.

Nguyen Tuan Kiet, a corporate social responsibility expert at Marie Stopes International Vietnam, said social insurance did not cover essential sexual and reproductive health services and family planning.

Clinics at factories fail to provide sexual and reproductive health or family planning services, he said.

The workshop was held as part of a project called "Advancing social and economic empowerment of female migrant workers through development and implementation of gender-sensitive initiatives in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces," which is being implemented by Marie Stopes International Vietnam in 2013-15 and funded by the European Commission. — VNS

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