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Women & Work in Latin America

Women & Work in Latin America

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Women & Work in Latin America

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  1. Women & Work in Latin America • Theoretical Background • Illustration: Women Berry Workers in Michoacán, Mexico

  2. Globalization • Two Perspectives: • Washington Concensus (Neoliberalism): • International investment & free trade contribute to expansion of production, new technologies, create new jobs, improve living standards • Globalization contributes to unemployment, poverty • The globalized market consolidates U.S. capitalism around the world • Which of these perspectives is best supported?

  3. Globalization & Latin America • Globalization is associated with: • WTO promoted free trade • Cultural imperialism (McDonalds, Walmart), outsourcing • Forced out-migration • Environmental destruction • Social Inequities: • 20% control 83% of Production • 60% survive on 6% of the GDP • It is NOT sustainable & resistance is mounting

  4. Globalization & Women • Increases the exploitation of women • Women enter the job market on the global assembly line (global sweat shops) • The informal sector • Or are forced into sex trade • The invisible economy of housework is neglected—involves the double day

  5. Theories The institutions that promote globalization are gendered—male expressions of capitalist patriarchy • IMF, World Bank, & Structural Adjustment • Policies neglect gender inequality & differences in power & distribution of resources within households • Unpaid domestic labor is not viewed as an essential economic activity • 75% of emergency funds are channeled to men • Assuming they will automatically benefit women

  6. Feminist Theory • Neoliberal policies depend on unequal power relations between men & women • Women’s unpaid domestic labor is vital to the success of structural adjustment policies • Women’s reproductive roles serve as a safety net for these policies…

  7. The model depends on women’s unpaid domestic labor to feed, clothe, and educate children even when they work outside the home • Women are responsible for household budgets, thus carry the burden of structural adjustment • They must reduce purchases & intensify their household and extra-domestic work • Land used for subsistence crops is transformed to export production, reducing their ability to feed their families • Young girls often leave school to help their mothers or work in the labor market to help the family • The model assumes women will subordinate their own interests to sustain a system that oppresses them

  8. Women in the Labor Force • Women joined the labor force in unprecedented numbers (34% of total employment) • Women do 2/3 of the work in their communities • Yet they earn 35-50% less than men

  9. Helen Safa—Economic Restructuring & Gender Subordination • Structural Adjustment weakens labor & strengthens capital (comparative study of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba) • Multi-level analysis: Global, National, Local • Challenges the “Myth of the Male Breadwinner” • Importance of women’s social reproduction when the state no longer fulfills its responsibilities • Relate examples from her article to the presentation on women berry workers in Mexico

  10. Christine Ho:Caribbean Transnationalism As a Gendered Process • Globalization (“Late Capitalism”) • IMF/World Bank structural adjustment • Migration as a safety valve & reliance on remittances • Affect on family structures • Matrifocal families are not the problem, but a solution to late capitalism • Capitalism & Patriarchy function together to promote gender & class oppression • They granted males a family wage, assuming women’s earnings were merely supplemental

  11. Gendered Ideologies • Neoclassic theory: Explains gender disparities by women’s association with the domestic sphere • Assumes women are economically dependent on men(normative nuclear family; re: Safa’s Myth of the Male Breadwinner) • Men (productive work) transfer their wages to economically dependent women (reproductive role) • Thus women’s wages are seen as supplementary • They receive money from men in exchange for managing family life

  12. Families & Households • The “FAMILY” is viewed as a set of norms based on marriage & co-residence • This conception ignores the culturally specific ways that families & households organize themselves • Nuclear, extended, female-headed, joint, etc. • 1 in 5 families in Latin America is female- headed

  13. Gendered Ideologies are Embedded in the Labor Market & Societal Institutions • Radical Theory: Women’s subordination is based on patriarchal ideology • Gender inequality is subsumed under a system of patriarchy • “The Patriarchal Bargain” – Male authority offers women protection & security, thus they will sacrifice personal needs & cede decision making to income-generating husbands • Radical feminists theorize the household as the source of gender oppression & unequal power

  14. Marxist Theory: Women’s subordination is rooted in the capitalist system of production • Gender inequality is subsumed in class inequalities • Christine Ho: Women are doubly subordinated by intersecting systems of capitalism & patriarchy

  15. So Who is Right? • Luz de Alba Acevedo: “Salaried work constitutes a necessary condition to affirm women’s autonomy from men” • Edna Acosta-Belén & Christine Bose: “Women as a Last Colony”—women enter the work force as exploited, low waged workers

  16. The Impact of Globalization • Poverty: • 2 million jobs lost in a single year • 40% Loss of family income • 150 million living below the poverty line (an increase of 20 million) • Lifestyles in the global North are supported on the backs of people in the global South

  17. Some Latin American Examples • El Salvador: • Entry of fast food, shopping malls • Imports are double the amount of goods that it exports • Rising debt & dependence on remittances • Nicaragua: • 70% live in poverty, 60% unemployed • Mexico: • Farmers pushed off land in massive numbers • Billionaires increased from 2 to 24 (economic inequality) • Honduras: • Banana, sugar, beef industries feed the North American breakfast table—at the expense of corn, beans, rice • Food shortages • Guatemala: • Maquiladora workers earn $1.00 per day, 16 hour days • 40,000 workers, 80% are women • Garment industry exports $100 million in clothing per year

  18. Labor Market Segmentation • Example from Michoacán • Michoacán is a major site of male migration to the U.S. • Agricultural exports segmented the labor market • 1980s & 1990s women in the agricultural work force increased 300%

  19. “Things have changed since women started to work in the strawberry plants. The village has progressed. Before, we didn’t have enough to eat. Now families can buy food and clothing. The girls have changed too. They are not afraid to go out alone. They go wherever they want. It used to be that we didn’t even know what the nearby town was like and we didn’t talk to anyone who wasn’t from the village. Now the girls have boyfriends—some even marry boys from other places who they met in the packing plants”