Woman Plus...
  N 2, 2002

WOMEN AND GLOBALIZATION: FEARS AND HOPES

Marina Malysheva


        Marina Malysheva - leading research officer at the Institute of Social Economic Problems of Population (ISEPP) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Coordinator of programs of International Republican Institute. In 2000 she defended the Doctor's thesis "Interdependence between social economical processes and gender relationship" at ISEPP. In 2000-2001, as Director of the project of Moscow Center of Gender Research "Spreading of gender knowledge", she organized seminars for scientists, representatives of Non-governmental Women Organizations and mass media, carried on education programs for women-teachers from Russian regions. Author of the book "Modern patriarchy".

During thousand years women met with discrimination. What happens at present?

The global economic policy, which was initiated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and which was known under the name of structural reforming programs, has strengthened the discrimination. Structural reforming programs were called re-colonization or market colonialism. Why is it so? It is due to the fact that a lot of countries lost their economical and political sovereignty, their living standard became worse. In eightieth there was a drastic escalation of inequality. The ruling elite was making their fortune; the majority of population was suffering from poverty. Even in the United States the speed of stratification of society increased considerably.

Developing countries became the market for export of goods from the industrial world and as well suppliers of raw materials and cheap labor. It was followed by devaluation of national currencies in the countries of transitional economy, destabilization of internal market of goods, increase in internal prices for the main food products up to the level of the world market. It is quite natural that the living costs in many countries, including Eastern Europe, became comparable with the same in the West, though at the same time the wages were kept on a low level. If a daily pay roll of the workers in the West amounts to 70-80 dollars, in the countries of transitional economy its average is 1.5 dollars.

Under the influence of structural reforming programs the industry, oriented on internal production, fell into decay, the programs of social support decreased and the poverty rate increased. The poorest among the poor more often (with the exception of children) are women. But if earlier the feminization of poverty was recognized as Russian reality, nowadays they say: "Invalids, pensioners and children are in even worse situation" But let us see who is responsible for invalids, who is nursing them, who is responsible for the old people, who is responsible for children? As usual, women are responsible; thus appear the feminization of poverty.

Women earn less than men, have less property and limited control over capital and production. And still all over the world they are burdened with a double responsibility: as labor and as persons, nursing children, the sick, the aged.

The modern global economy directly influences the situation of Russian women. How it can be determined? We can consider the dynamics of the following indices:

  • Women opportunities to provide themselves with all necessary: food, clothes, dwelling; providing of women with public resources, i.e. with that part of the national budget which is allotted through social programs, for example, payment of birth allowance and allowance for children of pre-school age; access to education and professional training, which allows to avoid low qualified and unproductive work. Are there many women who can afford to live not saving on food products, women who can buy a flat or a room at least, women who can get education in Moscow or regional institutes of higher education?
  • Women opportunities of realization of reproductive function: giving birth to and bringing up of children. The birth rate is under threat, it drastically decreased. Results of any sociological questioning, carried out starting from the middle of the ninetieth, proved that the birth rate goes down because of uncertainty in the future.
  • Women opportunity to be employed outside home. Women employment in our country for the last 8 years decreased from 53% till 47%, or by 8 million, which is twice as more than the reduction in men employment.
  • Control over regulation of public resources. On the part of women it is still minimum.

Distinctive feature of the modern labor market as a result of processes of globalization is free and flexible regime of employment. In our country not so many women can use a flexible timetable of work, but in the near future the majority of them will use it. It seems that for a country, where "full employment" existed for decades, it is a positive tendency. But is it really so? Flexible labor market means legislation, which should protect women-employees, does not any more guarantee leaves for child care and allowances, does not guarantee equal payment for equal work, allowances connected with professional traumas - all these items became not obligatory.

If we take some other regions of the world, many branches of industry, where women worked full working day, were deliberately closed. For example, in South East Asia the globalization was carried up in such a way that certain types of manufacture were transferred to the countries, where the labor was cheaper. Women had to content themselves with partial employment: to fulfil works at home or to make casual earnings under very bad working conditions and with low wages.

Nowadays a special term is used - "casualization of labor" - originated from the word "casual". More and more often women are not sure that their working place will be kept for them: today it exists, tomorrow it disappears. And it is an approved method of using women labor, which employers very actively apply in different regions of the world. In these cases the wage is much lower, there is no chance for career, protection from the local legislation is not sufficient. Moreover, private companies bear limited responsibility for the rights of partial employed. That's why the casualization of labor is not only stratagem of reducing the production costs, but as wells orientation for reconstruction of the working process into a more hierarchic and flexible form, when women have little control over production.

Moreover, there is tendency for intensification of work in the spheres of production and rendering services. Employers either cut down the number of personnel or increase working load per each employee; not high enough production indices are followed by either cutting-down of wages or need to work overtime. In general, intensification of woman labor includes a number of parameters: longer working hours; higher working loads; higher rhythm of work during night shifts or in early morning hours; higher requirements of the employees' qualification and educational level, while preserving the same level of wages; holding of more than one appointment by one employee; setting up of working places without clear responsibilities.

A special attention should be paid on works at home, which are now widely practiced. In fact it is a super exploitation of women. Why? Since the majority of workers, who work at home, are mostly women. For example, telephone call service is a very widely spread type of work at home. Why is it a super exploitation? Since women take on them a double responsibility: first, for production operations, which they fulfil at home; second, for members of their families, who are present at home at that time. The work of these women becomes invisible, though it takes long hours and is done in isolation. Payment for the work and working conditions are much worse than the same of the ones, who work at the enterprises - workers at home are the poorest among employees. They do not have any capital or any instruments of production; they do not have any access to new technologies. Existing labor legislation does not protect them. It's a method of employers to reduce remuneration of women labor and bear no responsibility for it.

In a private sector the following practice is spread. Women are given probation period when their labor is paid much less than if they were given employment at once. During this period they are kept under very severe control and as soon as they commit a mistake they are fired out. It is a very convenient stratagem in order to avoid giving permanent and well paid employment.

Women have to face limited economic opportunities for themselves. We all witness the fact that women more and more are involved in the street retail, in service, in non-qualified handwork - in the so-called small business. There exists prejudice against small business - preferably they are not given loans or credits.

It is not exaggeration to say that women were not given opportunity to express their thoughts in connection with national plans of development and policy of reforms, which were dictated by the international economic organizations. In all countries interests of women are considered of minor importance from the point of view of political and economic development. The role of women in economic or social spheres is taken into account neither in national governmental programs nor in global programs of development. Till recently there were no methods of monitoring of the progress or regress in public development with due regard of the women situation.

Structural reforming programs at first were approved in the countries of South East Asia. There everything began in sixtieth and during the following two decades women of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore created a model of export oriented industry, which became the core of stable economies of these countries. Who knows how much was done at the expense of women? This story is brought to us in a completely different way.

The stage of export oriented production was characterized by a flow of women to all enterprises all over East and South East Asia. Free-tax trade zones were created there and women labor prevailed in them (up to 85%). In South Korea the women exploitation was particularly cruel. That's why they were among the first to begin struggle for their rights. As soon as they organized trade unions and began to demand improvement of their working conditions, the enterprises were closed and moved to some other regions of the world. I have already mentioned that it is a very widespread tactics and most probably it will be continued. When we set about working out gender stratagem of overcoming the negative results of globalization in our country, we should by all means bear this circumstance in mind.

Free-tax trade zones became the Paradise for investors and the Underworld for women. In the first place the employers hire very young women - from 16 up to 23 years old. Why? Since these women are very obedient, are ready to fulfil dull, monotonous work. Moreover, it is quite openly declared that women are the best workers due to their natural patience and flexibility of hands.

Transnational companies prefer to hire single women without children. It is a common practice to test women for pregnancy before giving employment on order to avoid payments of allowances for pregnancy and childbirth. It happens in our country as well. When joint ventures are opened very often a special clause is included in the employment contract, stipulating that a woman, while working in the company, should not become pregnant and give birth to a child. Certainly, it is a violation of the legislation, but since economic conditions in our country are very tough, women sign these contracts.

There is another very important point, which as well, unfortunately, bears a relation to our country. Structural reforming programs involved countries of the third world and countries of East Europe into a serious crisis, connected with their dependence from external support. Debt of developing countries increased by 73% in comparison with 1982, debt of Africa - by 80%, debt of Asia almost doubled and in Latin America it increased by 25%. We know very well that the World Bank proclaimed that one of its main goals was a struggle with poverty. But in reality, if we start analyzing the figures, we can find out that the debts of the countries permanently increase and no reduction is expected in prospect, that nobody is going to remit these debts.

Countries of West Europe as well experience some difficulties. In Germany women amount to 89% of the total of 5.3 million persons with part-time employment; in general in Europe women constitute 81.5 % of the persons with part-time employment. Return to paid work after the leave, connected with the birth of a child, is very often followed by the use of flexible forms of employment. But women long for more active participation on the labor market and, naturally enough, express their dissatisfaction. In Germany, in the new part of it, 99% of housewives are discontented with the present situation, and in the old part - 74%. The so-called low level employment, amounting to 6 million workers, is widespread and women total 3.5 million among them. Many workers are engaged in the so-called traditional women occupation - tidying up and work at home, mostly telephone call service.

Single mothers and the only breadwinners of the family even in Germany cannot provide living standard, acceptable for the family, since they have very low incomes. It spreads even over women, occupied in the small business and establishing their own companies. Women establish 1/3 of the small business in Germany mostly in the sphere of service. More than a half of these enterprises have no other employees but the owner herself. Half of women-businessmen earn less than DM1800 and only one third earn more than DM3000. In Germany it means that at least 2/3 of women can hardly provide the needs of their families.

It was presumed that due to the growth of women participation in economy they would gain by globalization of production, trade and service. But this process is followed by women involving into the labor market and immediate shifting them to low paid, insignificant and unstable segments of economy. Women unite and let themselves go down at the same time. Many women receive their incomes in cash but few of them feel safe. Cheap and mobile women labor is perceived as natural and developing resources.

Many people ask me what is globalization? There are at least three characteristics of globalization: economic, political and cultural. Shortly, globalization is a free transfer of capital, a free transfer of manpower resources and a free transfer of raw materials. The frontiers are opened in order to pump over financial resources, manpower and to reduce as much as possible the expenses in the process of making profit for those countries, which have enough capital to get it.

Certainly, we have to mention positive sides of globalization. For example, freedom of migration can be perceived as a positive factor by those women, who have high qualification, speak many foreign languages, are real experts and can be employed under good contracts. Nevertheless, at the same time some negative processes should be mentioned: more often our women have to migrate with tourist or student visas or even visas of fiancee, that's why they do not have official rights for employment abroad and they do not have any legal rights on social protection. Accordingly, they are very severely exploited.

Undoubtedly, the positive feature of globalization is creation of new types of employment - new professions come into service, the ones, which did not exist earlier. For instance, there is a very interesting project, which is developed by Great Britain in different countries of the world: when it is not a man, who looks for a job, but the job itself looks for a man. What does it mean? If you master computer technique, you may stay at home and work for any employer-company all over the world. But if we compare computer experts of high qualification, who work in Bangalore in India, with their colleagues of the same profile and qualification, who work in the United States, we shall see that the wages of the latter are many times higher. Yes, in their country the Hindus increase their standard of living considerably, but in comparison with the West they are still poor.

Perhaps, somebody can reproach me with too gloomy estimation of globalization. But I am quite certain both as a scientist and as a citizen that in our estimation of the processes, taking place in the modern world, we should consider not only positive sides but problems and dangers, generated by them. Realistic forecasting is necessary in elaboration of national development stratagem of any country, that's why comprehension of possible consequences, which follow such complicated and polysemantic process as globalization, is especially important.