A new study shows employees in Solomon Islands lose more than two working weeks a year due to domestic and sexual violence, with one in three employees experiencing violence in the past 12 months.
The study, of more than 1,200 employees working for companies in Solomon Islands, was undertaken by IFC, the International Finance Corporation, with the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SICCI.
It’s part of their joint work on the Waka Mere Commitment to Action, under which 15 companies in Solomon Islands, have committed to promoting gender equality in the workplace.
Surveying employees at nine businesses in the country, the study shows almost half the employees surveyed had experienced some form of domestic and sexual violence in their lifetime, with a quarter saying violence occurred at least once a month.
The study shows that stress and physical effects of domestic and sexual violence follows people to work. More than 80 percent of people who’d experienced violence reported at least one negative impact on their work, most often making it difficult to get to work, stay at work or impacting how they felt at work. These impacts included feeling anxious, depressed or ashamed at work, and feeling unsafe.
“Solomon Islands has among the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence in the world and this study highlights the personal and business cost of that violence,” said IFC’s Pacific Country Manager, Thomas Jacobs. “With each employee losing about two working weeks, or close to 12 work days in a year, the violence comes at a terrible personal cost, as well as a cost to business.”
The study shows much lower levels of acceptance of violence today, compared to previous studies, with about 30 percent of employees surveyed saying they believed violence was sometimes acceptable. A previous study showed over 70 percent of working women and over 55 percent of working men in jobs thought there was at least one justification for wife beating.
“This is an encouraging sign as it shows companies that have signed up to the Waka Mere Commitment to Action are helping to bring about a change in attitudes in the workplace,” said Atenasi Ata, chief executive officer of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Companies should continue to raise awareness about the impacts of violence, encouraging a shift away from victim blaming, particularly for those seeking help.”
The study shows that although men and women are both affected, more women experience violence and report slightly more effects. Overall, 49 percent of women and 38 percent of men reported they had experienced violence in their lifetime. The study also shows responding to the effects of violence also takes up staff time, with an average of five and a half days a year spent discussing the issue, helping someone access services or addressing the impact of absenteeism, lateness or low productivity.
“Overall this paints a disturbing picture of the high toll on employees and business of violence at home, impacting at work,” said the study’s lead author, Shabnam Hameed. “Staff feel too ashamed or are otherwise unable to tell their employers why they are missing work or why their performance is suffering, so they may resign or be sacked. The cost of replacing those staff and training new staff also has a significant cost on business.”
The Waka Mere Commitment to Action is a joint initiative by IFC and SICCI to create opportunities for women in the private sector. The initiative is supported by the Governments of Australia and of New Zealand.
Waka Mere companies include: Bank South Pacific, Bulk Shop, GPPOL, Hatanga Construction Ltd., Heritage Park, National Fisheries Development, Pan Oceanic Bank, Solomon Airlines, Solomon Brewery, Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, Solomon Islands Port Authority, Solomon Islands Tobacco Company Ltd, Solomon Islands Water Authority, Solomon Power, and SolTuna.