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Costa Rica – Commemoration of International Working Women’s Day (history and current setting)
Publications || 2019 || Costa Rica – Commemoration of International Working Women’s Day (history and current setting)

Costa Rica – Commemoration of International Working Women’s Day (history and current setting)

by charbds, 11 March, 2019


March 11, 2019
Cindy Sabat / csabat@bdsasesores.com
Attorney at law BDS Asesores


March 8th has been historically the date to commemorate International Working Women’s Day; however, many struggles have been faced to be able to celebrate this important date in present day. This was the case of the events that took place in 1857 during the industrial revolution, when a group of working women of the textile industry flooded the streets of New York City to protest for the minimum employment conditions they were subjected to, claiming for the first time about the salary inequality with respect to male workers.  This demonstration took the lives of 120 women, as a result of which the first female union was created.

Then on March 8, 1910 the Second International Conference of Socialist Women held in Denmark declared the commemoration of International Working Women’s Day, with the main purpose of promoting gender equality as well as women’s rights on several issues, including equality, political rights (right to vote), economical and labor conditions.

As a result of the impact caused by a fire at a shirts factory (NY) that killed over 130 working women in March 1911, major changes occurred in labor rights with the introduction of occupational health and safety standards.  Finally, in 1977 the U.N. asked countries to adopt the March 8th commemoration, which led to the formalization of this date to remember women’s fight for their involvement in society and for equal opportunities, but also as a reminder that there is still pending work to do.

Then, in 1979 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was created in the wake of concerns that despite the existence of international human rights protection instruments, women were still experiencing discrimination. On this matter, some findings and recommendations should be noted concerning the most recent report on our country (CEDAW 2017): existing limitations on women’s access to justice, need to fight against stereotypes, discriminatory practices, gender violence, as well as pending issues regarding the protection of indigenous and immigrant women.

As for women at the workplace in Costa Rica, and even though there are protective laws and institutions in place, according to the most recent 2018 State of the Nation Report in practice there is room for improvement in different areas in terms of gender inequality. For instance, although the labor force participation of women has increased, it is still below 30% when compared to male workers. Moreover, having an improved educational profile has not resulted in more job opportunities for women, while the gender pay gap as of 2017 amounts to 12% below men’s income for the same job and under equal conditions.

Even though Costa Rica has made some progress in terms of gender equality, legally speaking: Regulation on the Insurance of Domestic Workers, National Childcare Network Act, the enhancement of Article 104 of the Labor Code which bans, among other things, discrimination based on gender, disability, and otherwise (Source: Política Nacional de Igualdad y Equidad de Género (PIEG) INAMU 2017), in practice it would be necessary that all these instruments effectively transform into specific actions to reduce inequality, which PIEG will strive to implement during the 2019-2030 period: boosting an equal rights culture, as well as working in the pursuit of an actual and equitable distribution of time, wealth and power.

On the other hand, the Legislative Branch has received several bills intended to establish gender equality in boards of directors and public offices of institutions and cooperatives in order to prevent domestic violence, obstetric violence, and street sexual harassment, as well as the amendment to Act No. 7142 for the protection of equal pay between women and men.

As discussed above, this journey has been quite long but the progress achieved has been significant. Dates like this, however, should make us think and encourage all of us not only to foster respect in employment relationships, but also the implementation of equal opportunities, access to jobs, awareness on the need to eliminate gender-based discrimination from the very moment of hiring, as well as on the existing regulations and their appropriate application in companies by those exercising managerial duties and the general staff alike.

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