Term Paper: Globalization and Workers

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Globalization -- Take-Home Test

Neoliberal globalization has specific consequences for women workers from the global South. What are these consequences, and why do you think this is the case? How have women workers responded?

"We are told to tighten our belts -- but in this belt-tightening, others are loosening" (Chang, 123).

In the peer-reviewed Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography the authors explain that there are competing arguments for the effects that globalization has had on female workers in Africa. In one of the arguments, it is said that "…globalization and liberalization offer entrepreneurial opportunities for women" (Johnston-Anumonwo, 2011, p. 8). But on the other hand Johnston-Anumonwo points out there is an argument to be made that "…the neoliberal political and economic reforms" that are linked to structural adjustment policies have been particularly "…devastating for poor women workers" (8).

The authors explain first that most workers in Africa are part of the "informal economy," and that means the non-agricultural work located "…outside the established sphere of factory and office-based employment" (Johnston-Anumonwo, 9). It is important for the reader of this article to be familiar with the informal economy so the authors go to lengths to explain it.

Typically the informal economy would identify jobs like "street vending, home-based production of artisanal goods…" and such services as cooking, doing laundry, braiding hair and hairstyling, providing repair for shoes, Johnston-Anumonwo continues (9). Even prostitution and smuggling are considered to be part of the informal economy, and indeed women are a big part of the informal economy in Africa.

How has globalization impacted African women in the informal economy? In Zimbabwe females operate more than 66% of informal "micro-enterprises," and some researchers say that women prevail as the major operators of informal economies all across Africa (Johnston-Anumonwo, 10). In Sub-Saharan Africa the statistics this article presents shows that women's informal employment as a percentage of "…women's non-agricultural employment is 84%"; that having been said, statistics also show that "…African women remain stuck at the bottom of the informal economy hierarchy" because they are the lowest paying jobs and the most vulnerable jobs (Johnston-Anumonwo, 10).

Most economists and economic geographers don't pay much attention to women in the informal economy, Johnston-Anumonwo continues (10), because those poor women are not the "movers and shakers" of the global economy; they are hardly a blip on the radar. Call it benign neglect, as Johnston-Anumonwo alludes to it, but the fact is that the debt crisis and globalization have created enormous "hardships," and the debt crisis and globalization are tied closely to the "life and death circumstances of family members involved, with the poor, the elderly and children most at risk" (10).

How have women responded to being kept down as low-wage laborers in an informal African economy? They have not had much of a chance to respond as their struggles occupy their time and talent. Two theories are at play in this article as far as what women are faced with. One theory posits that the process of rapid liberalization and globalization should bring to developing countries "significant new opportunities for women" (like formal work in factories or informal work providing goods and services to formal places of work) (Johnston-Anumonwo, 11). The second theory holds that as a "…consequence of economic hard times brought on by an economic crisis," women should be able to get jobs and as a result they could "…gain more control over household finances" (Johnston-Anumonwo, 11).

However the reality is that those two assumptions / theories listed in the paragraph above are just that, hopeful theories, because "…new pressures brought on by the new competition" and most poor women do not have the experience or resources to take advantage of changing dynamics resulting from globalization (Johnston-Anumonwo, 12).

Meanwhile, globalization has brought many jobs in the construction field to India, and woman have been able to be hired for many of those jobs. That's the positive part of the story in India. The negative part for women is that they are rarely employed in construction jobs that pay well or offer skills beyond those that are considered rudimentary.

For example, women in the construction industry are "…mostly head-load workers," who carry "…bricks, cement, sand, and water from one place to another" (Baruah, 2010, p. 198). In addition to hauling bricks and cement women in globalization-fueled construction jobs "…clean, dig, mix mortar, or break stones," Baruah writes (198). A common sight on and near construction sites in India is groups of women carrying "…loads of bricks that weigh up to 90 pounds on their heads" (Baruah, 198). It is very rare to see women given opportunities to be trained in skilled position, Baruah continues.

The bottom line in this peer-reviewed piece is that notwithstanding the fact that women have historically been working in the construction field in India -- "for centuries," according to Baruah -- the globalization, modernization, education and technology that has been growing in India does not always "…result in gender equality and poverty alleviation" (200). Baruah also notes that women's exclusion from -- "or marginalization within" -- skilled trades in the Indian construction industry is a "fairly global phenomenon" (200).

An article in the peer-reviewed journal Health Care for Women International relates to the health consequences for women in the developing world. Due to the "advent of multinational corporate businesses," women's health is suffering in Malaysia, the Philippines, Mexico, India and Indonesia, the author, Christine Hippert explains (Hippert, 2002, p. 861). The World Trade meetings in Seattle in 1999 ended up without much attention being paid to the health of individual workers, Hippert explains on page 862. "The current world economic order deems women's health expendable," Hippert asserts, emphasizing that a "utilitarian calculus" seems to trump women's health and instead place development and "greater economic stability" well above the human rights of workers (862).

When multinational corporations establish business in the developing world, they do so of course to exploit labor and its lower costs, "…lax environmental regulations, and duty-free exporting," Hippert continues (862). And when those same multinational corporations hire women it's for two reasons, Hippert explains: for one, men are usually in management position and they can "more easily control women physically"; and for another, working in factories is usually the only option for "…uneducated, working-class women to earn wages" (862).

The health of women employees is generally not a great concern for multinational corporations setting up shop in developing countries, Hippert continues. Women in those above-mentioned factories are exposed to toxic chemicals and other harmful substances like "colophony (pine resin), glue, xylene and m-dinitrobenzene" which can lead to "occupational asthma, irritant dermatis, menstrual irregularities and cyanosis and hemolytic jaundice" (Hippert, 862). Human rights are violated when it comes to women employees in these factories, the author asserts; for example, women are "…coerced into pregnancy exams" and are quizzed about their menstrual cycles and pressured to report if they plan to get pregnant and asked about what birth control methods they are using (Hippert, 863).

In the article from the readings, "Senseless in Seattle," the writer launches a verbal attack against the demonstrators that protested against the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying the globalized world is one "without walls" and that the protestors missed the point. The protestors fear that the WTO is trying to set up a global government, when in fact the WTO is just attempting to set standards and guidelines for globalization, the writer explains. "There is never going to be a global government to impose the rules the protestors want" but on the other hand, the article asserts, the power of globalization should be used to "mobilize the power of trade" and the power of the Internet in order to "…persuade, or embarrass, global corporations to upgrade their standards."

Part TWO: There are ways in which the negative consequences of globalization can be mitigated. Discuss at least three of these strategies from the readings. Which is most effective and why?

Ronald Munck writes in the readings that there have been in the past few years several solid responses to the challenges of globalization. For one, it has been said that globalization needs a "human face" or it cannot be "sustainable." So how do leaders in the World Bank and the WTO put a human face on a movement that is helping some rich nations but not serving developing nations very well? Munck writes that some of the reforms that were suggested (privatization, marketisation and liberisation) were designed to make globalization "…more palatable" although they were not intended as a way to change the fundamentals of globalization (Munck).

Also, the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggested that its "new paradigm" would perhaps mitigate the problems that workers were struggling with vis-a-vis globalization; that new paradigm was simply called "decent work," Munck explains. In order to achieve economic and social progress in the world of globalization "decent work" would need to be offered as a "…vehicle for delivering the aspirations of people in their working lives," Munck continued. The bottom… [END OF PREVIEW]

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