Precariously employed

Women face the brunt of globalisation and trade

Published: Wednesday 31 March 2004

-- Globalisation has drawn millions of women into paid employment across developing countries, but they are denied their fair share of benefits, says Oxfam gb's latest research in 12 countries

Women are working at high speed for low wages in unhealthy conditions. They are forced to put in long hours. Most have no sick leave or maternity leave; few are enrolled in health or employment schemes

The chief reason: the new business model known as the global supply chain. Globalisation has opened up countries, creating producers from whom brand multinational companies can source their raw materials and products

International mergers and aggressive marketing pricing have concentrated market power in a few hands. Out sourcing has become common. Retailers push the costs and risks down the supply chain to factory/farm managers, who further pass them down to the weakest link in the chain: women workers

In Chile, 75 per cent women in the agricultural sector are hired on temporary contracts for picking fruit.
In China's Guangdong province, women face 150 hours of monthly overtime in garment factories, but 60 per cent have no written contract and 90 per cent have no access to social security

Retailers, on the other hand, are doing brisk business. Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, buys products from 65,000 suppliers and sells through 1,300 stores in 10 countries. No wonder its products are 14 per cent cheaper than its competitors

In 2001, the top five department stores in the us -- led by Sears Roebuck and JC Penney -- controlled 56 per cent of department stores sales.

In Guangdong province of China
Factory Monthly overtime in hours (legal limit 36 hours) Percentage not receiving
minimum wages
status and rights
Factory A 150-200 35 No maternity leave
No social insurance coverage
Factory B 180-250 50 No written contract
No maternity leave
No social insurance coverage
Note: Wal-Mart sources its products from both the factories

Source: Oxfam GB 2004, Trading away our rights, Women working in global supply chains, Oxfam International, Oxford, UK.

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