Vietnam’s Approach to Gender Roles at Work

About the time the Vietnam/American War ended, American women started progressing toward gender equity in the workplace, and now it’s hard to imagine the US government doing what Vietnam just did:  banned employers from hiring women in 77 job categories.  

Effective Dec. 15, Vietnam’s new labor decree is aimed at protecting women’s health.  It prohibits women from working in jobs that adversely affect their  reproduction and child raising duties as well as jobs that require frequent submersion in water.  The list includes metal processing, oil well drilling, gas exploration, work on high-voltage power lines, repairing the exterior of tall buildings, boiler operation, and anything that involves carrying things heavier than 120 pounds.

Women also won’t be allowed to do sewer dredging, mining, underwater concrete construction, or anything that requires workers to stay in dirty and stinky water for 12 hours or more a week.

Further, women who are pregnant or raising infants aren’t allowed to do work that exposes them to electromagnets or radioactive substances, or chemicals that can cause gene mutation or cancer.  And they won’t be allowed to carry more than 50-pound objects, or work in dirty water, excessive heat, excessive cold, or stagnant air.

Some feminists might consider the new rules appalling, but they seem to reflect a profound cultural difference between East and West when it comes to acknowledging and honoring gender differences and protecting the health of not only women but also the next generation.

And anybody who wants to complain that Vietnam’s male-dominated government is being sexist will have to explain why the country’s males will be ending up with most of the dirty work.

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