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Women worker reproductive health spending an investment

Update: December, 25/2015 - 08:54
Female workers are provided information on reproductive health at an industrial park in the south. — Photo zing.vn

HCM CITY (VNS) — At labour-intensive manufacturing firms that depend mostly on women workers, employees' sexual and reproductive health issues have an impact on cost, productivity, workers' loyalty, and labour relations, experts have said.

"Reproductive healthcare is an investment, not a cost," Do Quynh Chi, director of the Research Centre for Employment Relations, said.

Around 18 per cent of pregnancies among factory workers are unintended, and each such birth costs the employer VND 18 million (US$800) in lost productivity, she said.

Forty per cent of women workers quit their jobs after giving birth and a worker takes 14.8 days off per year due to reproductive health reasons.

Providing healthcare for workers benefits employers rather than just being a legal requirement, she added.

Nguyen Van Tien, deputy chairman of the National Assembly's Committee on Social Affairs, said for every dollar invested in women employees' reproductive healthcare, employers earn nearly 13 dollars.

The benefit for companies making appropriate investment in their workers' sexual and reproductive health is a healthy workforce that is much more committed to its workplace and higher productivity, he said.

It also helps reduce costs incurred by high labour turnover and high absenteeism due to reproductive health reasons, he said.

Approximately one out of five pregnancies among employees is unwanted, according to a survey done for a project titled "Advancing Social Economic Empowerment Of Female Migrant Workers through Development and Implementation Of Gender-Sensitive Initiatives" and funded by the EU and implemented by MSI Vietnam.

Around 40 per cent of women workers resign after maternal leave and more than two thirds suffer from reproductive tract infections, but only half of them seek medical care at their factory's healthcare facility. Nearly 96 per cent of pregnant employees expressed a desire to get quality pregnancy care at their factory facility.

The recently-concluded project, carried out at nine factories with 100,000 women workers in Dong Nai and Binh Duong provinces between 2013 and 2015, aimed to improve the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of female workers at textiles and footwear factories, said Nguyen Thi Bich Hang, country director of Marie Stopes Viet Nam (MSI Vietnam), the UK-based non-governmental organisation.

More than 500,000 women workers have got access to essential sexual and reproductive health care information and services, Hang said.

It has improved the capacity of medical staff at factory facilities to provide counselling and medical services to workers. A number of best practices have been implemented, including establishment of a diverse range of communication channels such as peer educators, mobile clinics and health fair days, to share information and knowledge with employees.

Nguyen Phuoc Manh, deputy chairwoman of Dong Nai Province's Federation of Labour, said unintended pregnancies and gynaecological problems can be effectively prevented by raising awareness and providing reliable medical services.

Most women workers turn to their colleagues, friends, and relatives for information and advices on reproductive health, she said. — VNS

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