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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
View the documentILO Publications
View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentAccess to employment
View the documentAdvertising for workers
View the documentAffirmative (positive) action
View the documentAgricultural and other rural workers
View the documentAppraisal and evaluation
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Agricultural and other rural workers

A majority of the world's women workers are still concentrated in rural areas, occupied mostly in farming, but increasingly also in rural non-farm activities. Women's participation rates are often higher than in most others sectors, but this is simply a reflection of the nature of the work organization in these sectors, which are basically composed of family-owned small farms and non-farm units.

While the working conditions of all rural workers are characterized by long hours, low incomes, and exposure to occupational safety and health hazards, women often bear the brunt of these because of their greater concentration in occasional and seasonal work. In order to provide some protection against such adverse conditions, international labour standards on the right to freedom of association in agriculture, adopted as early as 1921, and in 1975, covered all rural workers, defined as persons engaged in agriculture, handicrafts or related occupations in rural areas.

In practice, the prevalence of family-owned or self-employment farms, combined with illiteracy and ignorance of workers' rights, has prevented the spread of trade unions in rural areas, except to some extent in plantations. This applies specifically to women because of their higher illiteracy rate in comparison with men. Women working in agriculture are often not recognized as basic producers by rural extension services that mainly address men; support services such as rural training and credit are difficult for women to access. Consequently, they have little negotiating power, and often even basic workers' rights are denied to them. Women working in rural areas should be entitled to the same employment conditions as those working in other sectors.

C. 11: Right of Association (Agriculture), 1921
C. 141: Rural Workers' Organizations, 1975
R. 149: Rural Workers' Organizations, 1975

→ see also Freedom of association and the right to organize and Plantation workers

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