Women Workers And Export Processing Zones Essay

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During my childhood, my parents employed a Filipino nursemaid to take attention of me while they were at work. As a immature kid, I ne’er thought about what would hold motivated her to immigrate to Canada from the Philippines, but as I grew older and developed an consciousness of the planetary moral force between the states of the Global North and Global South. I understood that Canada offered different chances for employment from the Philippines, but I wondered what kind of life would hold been available to her if she had stayed in at that place and what chances were available to the household she had left behind. Specifically, I was funny about occupations in mills controlled by transnational corporations ( MNCs ) . In reading about these mills, I discovered that many mills in the Global South are in countries called “ export processing zones ” .

Export treating zones ( EPZs ) are designated countries found in many Global South states[ 1 ]which are designed to pull foreign capital ( Pyle 2001: 62 ) , within which the host state offers conditions favorable to offshore investing, such as relaxed labor Torahs and duty-free imports and exports ( Mack and Di Mambro 2004:157 ) . Introduced as portion of the development schemes included in the World Bank ‘s Structural Adjustment Plans of the 1980s ( Pyle 2001: 68 ) , EPZs generate important employment ; the proficient, supervisory, and managerial degrees are about entirely occupied by work forces, while adult females, who comprise 65-90 % of employees in most EPZs ( Summerfield 1995:35 ) , fill the lower degree production occupations ( Pyle 2001:63 ) . In some instances, EPZs provide better working conditions for adult females than they might see in alternate employment, offer adult females the chance to accomplish some grade of fiscal independency, and integrate adult females into the development procedure, therefore following with the Women in Development theory ( Martinez 2008:182 ) . However, adult females in EPZs are exposed to highly hapless working conditions and paid really low rewards. In several ways, the ability of the adult females to get the better of gender subordination in the place by deriving external employment is undermined by the different signifier of gender subordination that occurs in the workplace. This paper will reason that, while EPZs provide some advantage to adult females workers, they finally act as a agency to except adult females from the benefits of the development procedure and make non lend to any significant betterment in the position of adult females in the Global South. First, I will analyze the positive consequences experienced by some adult females in EPZs. Then, I will look at the hapless on the job conditions, issues with farm outing work, and the relationship between EPZs and gender subordination. As good, a instance survey sing adult females workers in EPZs in the Dominican Republic will be explored to supply specific illustrations of the issues in inquiry.

Positive Effectss of Export Processing Zones on Women Workers

In some instances, EPZs provide several positive benefits to adult females workers. In Bangladesh, for illustration, “ trade liberalisation has been associated with a important enlargement of adult females ‘s paid employment in a context where they had antecedently limited entree to such chances ” ( Kabeer and Mahmud 2004:93 ) . By being employed in paid occupations outside their places, adult females are able to bear more duty for family disbursal and as a consequence addition greater control over the family in general, taking to the formation of female-headed families ( Safa 2002:13 ) and a reduced trust of adult females on hubbies for fiscal support. While the prevalence of female-headed families has non needfully translated to greater liberty for adult females in public life, it represents authorization of adult females within their ain places, which is a necessary measure in the inclusion of adult females in development. A adult female interviewed in a survey conducted in the Dominican Republic commented that “ when one works, one feels more liberated, to pull off one ‘s ain money… one feels freer to make anything because it is your ain money ” ( Safa 2002:18 ) . Therefore, EPZs have benefited adult females workers in the Global South by indirectly supplying them with a greater sense of liberty.

As good, some surveies have suggested that working conditions in EPZs are significantly better than the conditions of the occupations available outside the EPZ ( Kabeer and Mahmud 2004 ) . As the consumers in the Global North are the primary market of the merchandises manufactured in the EPZs, anteroom groups and purchasers can exercise force per unit area on the MNCs active in the EPZs, frequently ensuing in betterments in working conditions, despite the fact that in many EPZs, authoritiess enact prohibitions on trade brotherhoods or the ability of workers to organize brotherhoods is badly limited ( Kabeer and Mahmud 2004:95 ) . Therefore, the EPZs offer adult females a opportunity to avoid work in “ unfavorable ” fortunes and “ a agency to get away from an oppressive place environment ” ( Carr and Chen 2004:136 ) . As good, a instance survey of Batam EPZ in Indonesia revealed that while the adult females workers were “ comparatively disempowered ” , they were able to obtain certain freedoms through “ micro-resistance ” , i.e. small-scale actions in resistance of certain regulations, such as curfews, and therefore adult females were able to “ negociate the terrain between their ain germinating visions of Batam and the prepared, official representations on a day-to-day footing. ” ( Mack and Di Mambro 2004:174 ) .

Therefore, EPZs can supply touchable benefits to adult females on an single footing, in comparing to the alternate employment chances which adult females are faced with in their communities, by supplying slightly favorable employment which leads to increased liberty within their ain places. However, while working conditions may be favorable over other occupations in the same country, working conditions in EPZs still tend to be really hapless, and while adult females may be empowered to some extent within their ain places, gender subordination is still extremely permeant in the workplace.

The Reality of Working Conditions in EPZs

The world of employment conditions in EPZs for adult females is rough. EPZs are designed to pull foreign capital, and therefore labor costs for MNCs must be really low. This is in portion why adult females are the preferable workers for mills in EPZs ; adult females are considered “ docile ” and therefore less likely to form into brotherhoods ( Pearson and Theobald 1998:986 ) , and are paid lower rewards than work forces ( Safa 2002:11-12 ) . Therefore, adult females workers are a manner for a state to increase its comparative advantage in pulling foreign investing. Other facets of the EPZs include “ long working hours and forced overtime, deficiency of benefits or fillips, accustomed underpayment of rewards, insecure physical working conditions… and suppression of worker sentiments ” ( Pyle 2001:63 ) every bit good as employment insecurity, torment, and safety concerns while going to and from work ( Pyle 2001:63 ) . Rather than supplying adult females with an authorising place which actively involves them in the development procedure, this type of employment maltreatments adult females in order to pull foreign capital. While they are lending to the development of their states, the adult females are non put in a place where they will see the benefits of development, and as a consequence, EPZs do non lend to significant betterments in the Global South.

Women workers in EPZs besides face serious wellness hazards. There are studies of adult females at one EPZ in Thailand of deceasing, miscarrying, or holding badly handicapped babes due to exposure to industrial pollution ( Pearson and Theobald 1998: 990 ) . The symptoms of many of the conditions that adult females typically develop in EPZ work include organic structure cachexia, ulcers, and roseolas, which are similar to the symptoms exhibited by AIDS victims and therefore are often dismissed by authorities governments as the consequence of AIDS, contracted as a consequence of “ the promiscuous life style of mill misss ” ( Pearson and Theobald 1998:990 ) , a permeant representation of adult females EPZ workers in many Global South communities. The risky conditions of the mills further uncover the exclusion of adult females from the development procedure ; it suggests that adult females are viewed as disposable and that they are merely valuable every bit long as they can be used to pull foreign investing from the Global North.

The disposable nature of adult females workers is farther revealed by the fact that the adult females employees are the first to lose their occupations if demand for the merchandise falls, or are fired and so re-hired as home-based workers or portion clip workers, with even lower rewards and fewer benefits. Womans can be dismissed because of gestation, or because they “ no longer run into productiveness or time-keeping norms ” ( Elson and Pearson 1981:101 ) , though if there is a impairment in public presentation, it frequently consequences from the physical harm caused by risky working conditions ( Elson and Pearson 1981:101 ) . For adult females to be to the full integrated into development, they must be able to take part at all degrees of development, non merely move as a disposable trade good to be abused in the involvement of the state as a whole.

Subcontracting and Home-Based Work

Many MNCs which operate in EPZs farm out out their work to other locally owned mills within the EPZ or in the local community, or use home-based workers ( i.e. workers who work in their places as opposed to in the mill workshops ) . While these workers may or may non be physically working within the EPZ, their employment is the consequence of the MNCs in the EPZ and therefore for the intents of this essay are classified as EPZ workers ; one survey refers to these workers as “ cloaked pay workers, with even lower rewards than in the workshops. ” ( Pyle 2001:64 ) . Womans are the huge bulk of home-based workers, in portion because home-based work is frequently the lone alternate employment outside of sex work or employment as a amah for adult females when they are dismissed from the EPZ production due to resettlement of the company or mechanization of production ( Pyle 2001:64 ) . Home-based work is much less desirable than a occupation in the workshop, nevertheless, as rewards are much lower for the same work ( Carr and Chen 2004:137 ) , and because adult females are in their places, they are forced to unite their paid work with childcare responsibilities and housekeeping, ensuing in an about ageless working day and terrible mental and physical emphasis ( Pyle 2001:67 ) . Home-based work marginalizes adult females even further within the development procedure. While they are working and lending to the export production of their state, they are wholly pushed out of the possibility of bettering their position. They merely go literally unseeable laborers who are non at all integrated into development and as such will non profit from the development procedure. As one writer provinces, “ the really factors which led to adult females ‘s “ inclusion ” in the planetary economic system in the first topographic point – unskilled work, low rewards, low productiveness – now have them trapped in downwards nomadic places. ” ( Carr and Chen 2004:138 ) .

Gender Subordination and Export Processing Zones

For many adult females, employment in an EPZ represents an chance to see public life off from the control of their male parents and brothers and as discussed above, gaining an income can assist adult females to accomplish more liberty in their places. However, for adult females to be employed outside the place, particularly in state of affairss where their hubbies or male parents are unemployed, is a corruption of the patriarchal constructions that are common to many of the Global South states where EPZs are found. This consequences in the bitterness of work forces in the community and representations of adult females workers as promiscuous and “ passing their money in bars ” ( Safa 2002:16-17 ) emerge. These representations are rejected by adult females: in a survey of adult females EPZ workers in the Dominican Republic, several adult females were interviewed and reported that they work to back up their kids, which had become easier for them as more occupation chances became available ( Safa 2002:18 ) . Although employment in EPZs is changing the traditional private lives of adult females and brings them into a more public life, the permeant patriarchal constructions which define gender functions for these communities remain unchanged and therefore the benefit of EPZs in changing the patriarchate is limited. In fact, while adult females leave behind the control of their male parents to work in EPZs, the subordination of female to male in the place is merely replaced by the subordination of the female workers to male supervisors ( Elson and Pearson 1981:99 ) . The difference between the father/daughter moral force and the boss/worker moral force is that “ the sexual component in the relation between female employees and male foreman is non contained and shaped by blood-related dealingss… in some instances sexual development is rather widespread – in the Masan Free Export Zone in South Korea, legion cases have occurred of sexual maltreatment of adult females employees by Nipponese supervisors. ” ( Elson and Pearson 1981:100 ) . As good, the gender subordination of the EPZ construction supports gender subordination between hubbies and married womans, as hubbies may restrict their married womans to the place to avoid subjecting her to the will of another adult male. The bulk of the female EPZ workers are single ( Elson and Pearson 1981:100 ) . Therefore, while by supplying employment for adult females outside their traditional domain, EPZs have the possible to lend to the position of adult females and cut down gender subordination in Global South states, in world they serve merely to reenforce or change, while still keeping, gender subordination, and while gender subordination remains a dominant force in the societal mentality of a state, adult females will go on to be excluded from the benefits of development.

Women Workers in Villa Altagracia Export Processing Zone, Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is the taking garment maker of the Caribbean and has quickly altered its economic system since the 1960s, switching from an agricultural economic system to an economic system dependant on touristry and export fabrication. In Altagracia, where this survey was conducted, a Korean-owned company runing in an EPZ provides the bulk of the occupations in the community, replacing the sugar factory which once supported it. The alteration from a sugar factory to a garment maker resulted in a displacement in employment ratios, as chiefly adult females were employed by the garment mill, whereas the sugar factory had employed largely work forces. This has fomented bitterness among the work forces of the community, but the adult females continue to work in the EPZ out of necessity to back up their households ( Safa 2002 ) .

In analyzing the on the job conditions of the Korean works, the survey revealed that it has “ replaced the paternalism of the sugar factory with stiff mill regulations stressing high productiveness, tight subject, and entire obeisance ” ( Safa 2002: 18 ) . The minimal hebdomadal pay was near to the national lower limit, and workers increased their net incomes with inducements for “ high productiveness and perfect attending ” ( Safa 2002:18 ) and overtime, though workers complained that “ they are fired if they refuse to work overtime, which is particularly hard for immature female parents ” ( Safa 2002:18 ) . The writer Helen I. Safa concludes that, in visible radiation of the bitterness of work forces in the community towards the adult females employed by the mill,

What we are witnessing here is a reaffirmation of the patriarchate and more specifically the male breadwinner theoretical account at the public establishment degree such as employers, labour brotherhoods, and political parties. The male breadwinner theoretical account has been well eroded at the family degree, as our female sources attest… This political orientation still prevails at the public degree of the workplace and the province. ( 2002:25 )

The specific instance of Villa Altagracia farther reveals that the current patterns of EPZs supply some advantage to adult females workers, but finally fail to move as a agency to efficaciously incorporate adult females into development.


The advantages provided by EPZs to adult females workers finally do non outweigh their negative deductions. They serve to work adult females in order to pull foreign capital to Global South states, while excepting adult females from the benefits of the development procedure and neglecting to lend to any betterment in the position of Global South adult females. While they provide a agency for adult females to take part in the populace domain of the community as opposed to taking their lives chiefly in the privateness of the place, the gender subordination that occurs within the mills prevents this displacement to ensue in a permeant paradigm displacement sing the function of adult females in society. In order to to the full incorporate adult females into development in a positive manner, they must be given equal wage with work forces, better working conditions, and chances to be employed in supervisory and proficient places. The gendered nature of employment in EPZs in the Global South must be eradicated, but this requires a great grade of societal alteration. However, merely with such a alteration in the societal outlook towards adult females can the benefits of development be enjoyed every bit by all members of Global South communities.

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