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For occupational health, it is necessary to maintain a safe and healthy working environment which would promote working capabilities and facilitate optimal physical and mental health. Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society, within households, communities and workplaces. The susceptibility to different health conditions and diseases are influenced by gender norms, roles and responsibilities which in turn affect the health and wellbeing of the individuals.
Occupational health related to exposure at work often differs by gender like men are more involved in primary and secondary sector of economy and women are involved in tertiary sector or service which affects their health in different ways. And Job assignment and exposure to work and job role differ among men and women which affect their health differently. Men and women work in different sectors and perform different task and works, whereas women are generally involved in informal sectors.
And also they are exposed to different physical and psychological stressors.
Ozren. E (2013) conducted a study on Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace, found that sexual minority groups like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) employees are least studied group in workforce. Based on the review conducted in study, social institution, legal framework and cultural norms were identified as the major pillars of sexual discrimination in workplace. And employers in work context would fail to hire or easily fire GLBT employees where there is no specific non discriminatory legislation related to sexual orientation.
Similarly, Gates (2011) said that one of the factors is absence of non discriminatory laws in the workplace that affect the wellbeing of queer employees. Homosexual behaviors are oppressed due to political and social norms of heterosexuality in social settings like workplace and the GLBT employees conceal their identity which results in negative effects on work related attitudes and wellbeing.
Globally, studies have found that women tend to suffer more from pressure due to competition, which results in job insecurity, limited option for training, promotion and inadequate social benefit like insurance and leaves. In some country women are likely to be unemployed without job and in other men are more often without any jobs. In developing countries, women are indirectly exposed to hazardous chemicals during plantations and harvesting, whereas men are directly exposed during application.
India being a developing nation has many traditional public health problems and due to rapid growth and globalization in last few years has resulted in occupational health related issues. There are significant differences in lives of working women and men which affects their occupational safety and health. Moreover studies have found that when women enter in non-traditional occupation they usually suffer from discrimination, harassment and mobbing more often than men. Approximately 50% of population in India comprises of women of which one third is of labor force and according to 2001 census, 25.63% is work participation rate for women.
In India only 7% labor force is organized sector, 93% is unorganized informal sector and 96% women workers are in unorganized sector. These women are concentrated in lower income segment and work for casual wage and survival activities or as home-workers.
Researchers have often dealt with problems conducting occupational health research with sex and gender. Women are underestimated in studies, working under hazardous conditions and are less often studied. There is also under reporting and under compensation problem by women regarding occupational health. On the other hand men are studied more often but not examined in relation to gender and health whereas gender is not given much importance in studies of mixed population. Apart from working condition, factors outside workplace also contribute to the health of the workers of any gender. The conditions may be different for both male and female.
There are obstacles to gender sensitive researches where gender is considered essential in social science but it is not such in biomedical science. Also the obstacle for change may be fear of occupational health issues specific to women which would hinder attempt for equality in workplace or would interfere compensation for occupational diseases.
There are gender differences in employment which has major impact on gender differences in work related health outcomes. Difference in exposure and working condition of men and women determines the occupational health outcome. Women’s safety and work related risks are underestimated and neglected compared to men both regarding research and prevention.
The policies and legislation has paid less focus and contributed fewer resources towards work related risks to women and their prevention as gender-neutral approach is considered. In decision making related to occupational health and safety at all levels women are underrepresented and are not directly involved in formulating and implementing occupational safety and health strategies. Women’s work related injuries and diseases are not much reported as women’s work is considered safe and even not compensated and not included in occupational health.
A study conducted by L Artazcoz et al. 2001, analyzed gender inequalities in health among male and female worker who are married in relation with family demand found that prevalence of chronic condition and poor mental health was significantly higher among women. Whereas the magnitude of gender difference in mental health was much higher among manual worker than non manual workers. No gender difference was found for reported leisure time and physical activity and sleeping six hours or less a day. Among male workers living with children less than 15 years had a positive association with longstanding limiting illness.
Occupational researches are conducted so as to accomplish goals in preventing disease and disability or sufferings among workers. And it should be sensitive towards gender which would further increase the effectiveness and be able to minimize sufferings. Also the condition of workplace that brings changes in health should be re-examined for better work environment, and occupational health regulation needs to be developed where increasing number of risks are being defined.
As women’s occupational safety and health has always been underestimated and neglected compared to men regarding research as well as prevention which creates imbalance should be addressed in research, along with awareness raising and prevention activities.
There should be commissions of employers, unions and administrations that provide gender equal opportunities at workplace. And those policies should facilitate flexibility of working hours and non-discriminatory actions to motherhood along with conciliation of family and job demands. To increase consciousness regarding sharing of domestic roles and responsibilities there should be gender sensitive education activities in schools, workplace, mass media and social media.
There should be activities to mainstream occupational safety and health into other policy area like public health or social welfare initiative and it must include a gender element. Along with that to improve work life balance, actions should be taken on account of designing working schedules of both women and men to be attractive and appealing.
Creation of inclusive workplace for GLBT individuals where prejudice and discriminatory behavior would not be considered socially accepted within an organization. Therefore awareness about sexual orientation diversity and GLBT inclusive or supportive policies is necessary along with adoption of these policies by firms and workplace organizations.
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