Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Womens Day. Women workers increase their power in the working class.

Below is an excerpt from an article "How Does Glaobalization Affect Women" by Goretti Horgan. It was first published in the International Socialism Journal in 2001. The article is quite long but it is an invaluable contribution to the effects of globalization on women workers. We are re-printing it here in honor of International Women's Day. 

Globalisation has had such negative consequences for women and children that some commentators argue that 'globalisation is a man'.2 They point to the way women suffer disproportionately from IMF and World Bank policies as public services are cut and they are forced to care for sick, disabled and older relatives, as well as earn a living. But globalisation could equally be a woman. Capitalism's expansion across the globe has depended on a massive influx of tens of millions of women into the workforce who had traditionally been dependent on husbands and male relatives. Globalisation has contradictory effects on women. Those who assign male gender to globalisation are right to point to how women's role in reproduction and the family means they suffer more from the effects of the neo-liberal agenda--but that's only half the story. It has also brought great freedom to women, especially those living in traditionally conservative countries like Indonesia, Ireland and Thailand, where women are able for the first time to be economically independent of men and to have at least some choice in their personal lives. Ultimately, by bringing women into the workforce, globalisation has given women a power they lacked in the past--the power to end the system that breeds poverty, exploitation and oppression. The global development of capitalism over the last 20 years has depended almost everywhere on women pouring into the formal workforce. From Dublin to Dhaka, Bangkok to Bradford, women workers have provided the cheap labour from which super-profits have been extracted. Table 1 shows the extent to which women workers have provided the new labour force in both the Asian and Celtic 'Tiger' economies. The number of women in the workforces has almost doubled in these countries over the last two decades.

This feminisation of the formal workforce has been a contradictory experience for most women. On the one hand, becoming economically independent leads everywhere to women having more choices about what they do with their lives. On the other, the 'double burden' faced by all women because of their role in the family means that the lives of women workers are everywhere fiendishly difficult as they try to reconcile work and family life. Working outside the home and being economically independent mean they don't have to answer to any man, but the 'race to the bottom' on which the expansion of global capital is being built means that, typically, this work entails long hours at low wages and makes caring for children very difficult. For some women, joining the global workforce threatens their right ever to have children. For others, it means neglecting the children they are working to feed. But everywhere, when asked, the overwhelming majority of women going out to work say they would not dream of going back to the home.

You can read the rest of the article here

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