Hygiene - a catalyst for economic growth
Hygiene - or the lack thereof - impacts participation in education, workplace productivity and the wider economy. This spans from the spread of disease due to poor hand-washing practices, to absenteeism among women due to the lack of toilets in the workplace, or incontinence sufferers and relatives taking care of them.
“Hygiene in the workplace is very important for women. Good hygiene contributes to acceptable working conditions and the reduction of poor sanitation and communicable diseases. Appropriate facilities, access to information and supportive work environments ensure a healthy and productive work force,” says Shauna Olney, Chief of the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
There is a clear link between access to facilities, and the ability to manage menstrual hygiene. “Assuming at least half of the 946 million people globally who lack any kind of facility and defecate in the open are female, a conservative estimate would suggest that at least 500 million women and girls lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management,” reads the 2015 edition of Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water by WHO and UNICEF.
An average of 6,500 Indian Rupees per person (about USD 97) was lost in India annually due to a lack of cleanliness and hygiene.The World Health Organization
A 2013 WSSCC report estimated that 73% of female factory workers in Bangladesh miss an average of six days of work – and pay – every month because of menstruation. Where access to sanitation services and products is low, and often coupled with societal stigma around menstruation, menstruation also often means missed school for girls. UNICEF estimates that 10 percent of African girls don’t attend school at all during their periods. There are also indications of increased dropout rates and missed school work for girls, due to infections caused by unsanitary menstrual products or practices, such as using old rags.
Concern over the lack of hygiene in public places such as washrooms, public transport or even hospitals can seriously limit our participation in society. The Hygiene Matters Survey shows that six out of ten respondents had refrained from certain activities due to concerns over a lack of hygiene or cleanliness. The results confirm that the more people worry about becoming ill due to poor hygiene, the more they will stop using facilities such as public transportation or visiting restaurants, gyms and even friends’ or relatives’ homes. Other reports show that children refrain from using school toilets, partly due to concerns over cleanliness. A 2009 doctoral thesis by Swedish specialist nurse Barbro Lundblad showed that 16% of schoolchildren avoided urinating at school, and 63% would never consider defecating in a school toilet, mainly due to poor cleaning.
Improving sanitation has often been low on the list of priorities for governments. “There are so many other pressing needs for the attention of governments: food supply, education, medical treatment and dealing with war and conflict,” in the words of the WHO (10 Things You Need to Know About Sanitation, WHO in cooperation with UNICEF and WSSCC). However, there are signs that governments are starting to understand the socioeconomic value of hygiene.
An average of 6,500 Indian Rupees per person (about USD 97) was lost in India annually due to a lack of cleanliness and hygiene, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Swachh Bharat Mission”, or Clean India Campaign, (a large-scale government initiative focused on providing sanitation and hygiene facilities to all Indian citizens) would make a significant impact on public health and in safeguarding the income of the poor, ultimately contributing to the national economy” says Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India.
Hygiene Matters Survey 2016/17
Activities people refrain from due to concerns about a lack of hygiene or cleanliness:
Close link between hygiene concerns and effect on public life:
Read more: Hygiene Matters Survey 2016/17.