Concepts, Research, Policy
Elgar original reference
Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 64: Women’s Work, Nimble Fingers and Women’s Mobility in the Global Economy
Ruth Pearson Introduction Since the 1970s there has been a rapid growth in women’s female economic activity all over the world, as women have increasingly entered the paid labour force, seeking to earn income to support themselves and their families. Despite the prevalence of the ‘male breadwinner myth’ (see Safa, Chapter 17, this volume), globalisation has been in many ways a story of the feminisation of labour. As in previous decades it is important to recognise that women’s labour is particularly in demand for certain kinds of work – often work that involves repetitive movements, attention to detail, implies standing still for long periods or time, and utilises manual dexterity – the so called ‘nimble fingers’ argument (Elson and Pearson, 1981). But the nature and pace of the feminisation of the labour force has been uneven between sectors, countries and regions, and is constantly changing. There are also new features of the global economy that are necessary to take into account in order to analyse effectively the ways in which women are part of its contemporary phase. First, the way in which global production is organised has changed considerably over the past decades. Rather than transnational corporations (TNCs) investing in cheap-labour countries to capture the advantage of employing low-paid women in order to reduce the costs of goods produced to compete in markets of the Global North, increasingly such supply chains are organised at arm’s length through serial subcontracting, creating challenges, especially for those committed to improve the wages and working conditions...
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