sickness insurance and maternity protection (ILO, 2000b). Women are
also less likely to be unionized.
The sexual division of labour is sometimes thought to obey "natural"
laws, so that women do jobs that are more appropriate for their bodies
and social roles. If so, the division of labour would be good for women's
health. But, if that were true, women would not be found in health care
jobs that require them to lift heavy weights (patients) and to work at
night. They would not be found in microelectronics plants that expose
them to known reproductive hazards (Huel et al., 1990), and they
would not be forced to work irregular, unpredictable schedules that
seriously interfere with their family lives (Prévost and Messing, 2001).
Their gender does not keep women from being exposed to hazards, but
it does condition the types of exposures they experience (Messing et
al., 1994a; Kennedy and Koehoorn, 2003).
For example, because of their different jobs and schedules, women
and men may be exposed to toxins in different amounts and levels.
In South Africa, women are exposed more often to pesticides during
planting and harvesting and men during application (London et al.,
2002; Kisting in WHO, 2005). Men's jobs in factories can involve higher
exposure than women's to toluene, a chemical solvent that can cause
various problems to the reproductive and nervous systems (Neubert
et al., 2001). In factories and services in developed and developing
countries, women and men are exposed to different physical and
psychological stressors such as repetitive work, heavy lifting and
monotony (Josephson et al., 1999; Messing, 2004; Acevedo, 2002).
Women are the majority of those involved in health care, which
involves risks of infection (including needlestick injuries), violence,
musculoskeletal injuries and burnout (WHO, 2002; Seifert and
Dagenais, 1997; Mayhew 2003; Josephson et al., 1997; Aiken et al.,
2002). Women who are sex workers are exposed to risks of violence,
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and other hazards
(Nishigaya, 2002 and Shivdas in WHO, 2005). Women usually suffer
discrimination and sexual harassment more often than men, especially
Women are more
often found in sex
work where they
to risks of violence,
infection and other