Paid menstrual leave: Labour “activists” and their legislators need to tread cautiously in today’s employers’ market

No need to get into the pros and cons about the proposed menstrual leave legislation being pushed by “women’s issues” group GABRIELA. We’ve heard from the feminists and toxic males like Ping Lacson and every other voice in between those ends of this bipolar “debate”. We are also pretty well aware of the employers’ side — particularly hiring managers who sift through stacks of CVs with just one thing in mind: choosing a candidate who will get things done and not be a pain in the ass. It’s no longer appropriate to score which cohort gets the most (statistically significant) ticks and least x’s in such a hypothetical — mostly underground — checklist but we’ll leave it at that for the realists to mull over.

Therein lies the rub. At the end of the day, the labour market is a free market. The Law of Supply and Demand is like gravity. You need a Saturn V rocket to deliver powerful enough thrust to escape gravity to launch spacecraft into viable ballistic trajectories. Along with “minimum wage” laws and various anti-discriminatory signals of virtue that pepper our legal frame, “menstrual leave” legislation is one such booster in that towering — but highly explosive — Saturn V engine that is the legal edifice of “equal opportunity”. Like the moon shot, such legislative rockets were all built on the back of good intentions. The Apollo programme was mounted with a multi-billion dollar zeal because the US had something to prove to the Soviet bloc. The said “legislative rockets” are also built on the back of something to prove. But I won’t go there today (or ever).

There is no disputing the fact that women are entitled to their place in a modern world where technology and infrastructure — both physical and social — are respectively available and in place to enable women to be “supermoms” and professionals at the same time. Some are able to successfully “have it all” and deserve all the congratulations for their achievements. At a more practical level (where moms need to work but don’t necessarily aspire to be hotshot execs), not many households nowadays can survive on a single income thanks to property bubbles and the long-overdue end of cheap money to finance home ownership.

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More to the point, modern societies have all but dismantled a social order far older than modern Western civilisation where raising kids was a village undertaking. Nowadays, most couples and single parents, are on their own. There no longer is that “village” to leave their kids with when they march off to work. It is also likely that a big contributor to the “equality” push are women who (again thanks to available technology) postpone or opt out of raising families altogether to focus on their careers which, as a side note, is causing that other major global problem that puts entire countries’ economic growth prospects at risk.

So, yeah, “pros” and “cons” in equal proportion in this latest “debate”. Neither is really relevant to the Laws of the free market. In the title of this piece, I tempered the term “employers’ market” using the qualifier “in today’s” — inadvertently suggesting that this is a situation we are seeing in today’s setting. True perhaps, for other economies, that is. In the Philippine setting, however, one need only raise the question of whether the labour market in the Philippines has ever been not an employers’ market to begin with. We don’t need to over-analyse to answer that question because the fact of the country’s dismal wages already provides the confronting answer. This means the more significant driver in the Philippine labour market is very likely supply-and-demand — not the nice First World trappings we are led to believe a Third World country desperately clawing up the competitiveness ladder can afford.

The key word here is caution. Do Filipino women who just want to work necessarily want to be known as a labour cohort entitled to certain legislatively-enforced privileges? Ultimately, there will always be an abundant supply of takers for every job offering that pops up in the Philippine economy. Many of those willing takers will gladly soldier on — rain or shine menstrual cramps or none, bad or good mood — just for a shot at those limited opportunities and, more importantly, to secure their hold on what they already have. We see evidence of this in the way many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in war-torn counties opt to stay and risk it than be repatriated to their homeland.

The only time a ship is launched onto a stable orbit by a legislative rocket is when the supply is accorded real value by absolute scarcity. No such scarcity currently exists in the Philippine labour market.

2 Replies to “Paid menstrual leave: Labour “activists” and their legislators need to tread cautiously in today’s employers’ market”

  1. If the Free Market is so great Benign0, then:

    “Why does the richest 10% of adults in the world own 85% of global household wealth, while the bottom half collectively owns barely 1%?”

    Google: “The Global Distribution of Household Wealth”

    These are FACTS Benign0. Are you totally okay with this Free Market Distribution?

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