chapter  7
The international dimension
Pages 13

Just as there is a local division of labour at the household, community, regional and national scale, so is there at the international scale. Although much of women's work is not counted because it takes place outside the formal economy (see Waring, 1988, and Chapter 6) and involves no payment, a gender division of paid labour is also noticeable at the global scale. Increasing numbers of women are entering the paid labour force in the developing world, although as a percentage of women, it is lower than in the West (Stichter, 1988). Capital exploits regional differences by tending to locate enterprises where labour and other cost savings can be made; globally this involves the location of plants where a balance of skills and cheap labour can be found. The geographical transfer of low-skill manual-assembly jobs is closely associated with the increase of women in the manufacturing labour force (Stichter, 1988). The wage discrepancy between the North and South is considerable, and is particularly marked in the case of women and children. Table 6.3 has already shown how persistent is the gap between male and female earnings world-wide where in all but two of the countries listed, the gap was larger in manufacturing. Women's wages in this sector fell to around half of men's in several of the developing countries: Malaysia (50.1), Republic of Korea (50.0), although the largest gap was in Japan (41.0). One-third of female-male pay differentials are estimated to be due to the sex bias in occupational sectors (Anker, 1997). This kind of horizontal segregation sees women and men concentrated in different sectors. For example, Anker suggests that men, world-wide, are more likely to be prominent in primary-sector jobs; that is, where there is better pay, security, working conditions and opportunities for

advancement. These jobs tend to be with firms which have labour-market power which insulates them from competition, to a large degree. On the other hand, women are more likely to be concentrated in the secondary sector, where pay, chances for promotion, working conditions and job security are poor. Firms in this sector tend to face fierce competition (Anker, 1997). The latter characterises firms in export processing zones, which overwhelmingly employ women and children (Pettman, 1996). In addition, Stichter argues that women in the developing world are more likely to be employed in the service industry (70 per cent of all female labour is hired in this sector of which 39 per cent of its labour force is women, 1988: 331). Women are also disadvantaged in paid work because of vertical segregation through which women are more likely to hold the lower-paid jobs in anyone sector. This is compounded by the unlikelihood of women being offered training as industrial processes become more mechanised, at which point the number of men employed rises (Stichter, 1988: 331). Ansara has claimed that 'Capitalism and globalised development policies are worked on the bodies of women' (1992, in Pettman, 1996: 197). Whilst this could be said to be true of many workers who, for example, suffer from poor health and safety regulations (see the discussion of the Union Carbide chemical plant which exploded in Bhopal in Chapter 4), it is particularly true of women not only because of the double or triple day that they may work (see Chapter 5), but also because of the increasingly lucrative trade of sex tourism, through which the bodies of women and children are frequently advertised as a 'natural resource' (Pettman, 1996). The trade in women is not restricted to prostitution but also extends to the sale of brides to Western men (Humbeck, 1996 and Pettman, 1996) and to the export of domestic staff to expatriots abroad. In this practice, women leave their country to work for households to which their visas are tied. Because they may not leave this household without losing their work permit, and because they will not generally be able to afford their fare home, this effectively converts a (poorly) paid position into servitude. Cases which have been brought to the attention of the host country frequently cite the sexual exploitation of women employed in domestic positions. States may encourage these forms of activity since the wages women send home to their families provide valuable foreign exchange. Between 1 and 1.7 million Asian women are thought to be in domestic service overseas, whilst the Philippines receives an estimated US$3 billion a year in remittances from overseas workers (Pettman, 1996: 189-191).