Gender and International Division of Labor

Introduction

In an effort to explain how production of goods and services in developing countries would result from getting materials from developed nations, system theorists became the first scholars to apply the concept of division of labor and specialization in macroeconomics. Starting with Adam Smith, the founder of modern capitalism, there has been a shift towards division of labor and socialization in most economies. Division of labor and specialization has been a topic of debate over the 20th century. However, the impact of gender in division of labor and specialization increasingly became a debatable issue towards the mid 20th century, especially due to the increasing role of women in the process of production.

Main Discussion

Various questions have been raised concerning gendered division of labor in international politics. According to Nash and Patricia (31), the term ‘gendered division’ of labor means the delegation of roles and responsibilities in the provision of labor in respect to gender in a given industry. In globalization, gender dimensions have rapidly changed in paradigm, with women being the major beneficiaries. In fact, the trend has seen women increasingly sharing the same roles and responsibilities with their male counterparts, with bias based on gender increasingly reducing. Prior to the 1960s, women in Europe and North America were taken as casual laborers or left at home as caretakers. Males took the important responsibilities in the process of production. However, with the rise of the globalized economy in 1960s, a globalized production perspective saw an increased need for both genders within the production process. In fact, globalization of economies and processes of production have changed the perspective, which in turn allows women to embrace flexible employment. In such positions, females have gained the freedom to engage in contracts and work at their own time, while carrying out other responsibilities. Moreover, the new paradigm allows people to bridge the gap between men and women in terms of division of labor and availability of employment opportunities. In fact, this shift has contributed to the disapproval of feminist theories that held on the wrong perspective of division of labor and responsibilities in respect to gender disparities. This literature review will take a close look at how women have developed since the inception of global production getting the information from various authors who have felt the concern for this emerging yet dynamic issue. The review seeks to analyze the argument that the impact of feminism is a critical issue in the international concept of labor and equality that is worth analysis when discussing the trend and nature of international labor relations

In their book “Nimble Fingers Make Cheap Workers: An Analysis of Women’s Employment in Third World Export Manufacturing”, Elson and Pearson dates their analysis back in 1960 when women started playing important roles in manufacturing industries, moist of which were affiliated to world market factories. According to Elson and Pearson (27), the new paradigm shift saw a reduction of unemployment rate in third world countries hence boosting the economy wherever it was practiced. However, the authors have argued over the reasons why women are given the majority of job opportunities in world market factories in developing countries as compared to men. According to the two researchers, a possibly good answer to this question might be because labor policies under such market factories are entitled to employ more females than males. They further argue that capitalist firms are against such policies of women as the only employees. In this case, the authors of this book claim that educating a woman and giving her a chance in employment reduces poverty levels in developing countries. Moreover, it has been estimated that there is reduced cost in employing women rather than men in such industries primarily because women are seen to be good at multitasking than their male counterparts. The implication of this school of thought is that there is differentiation in the labor productivity. The belief is that such differentiation is natural, with innate abilities being sought as qualifications for employment. The objective of either gender differs because men are under obligation of more responsibilities in their families as opposed to women.

The authors take the example of Malaysian investment advertisement as a way of attracting foreign firms. In this case, a woman is used to indicate that though she has small hands, she takes all the care needed and is fast. This may explain the meaning of nimble fingers where it depicts the nature of a woman who works with maximum discipline and is not much involved in unions for defending her rights. This might be a weak point because they might be oppressed in their rights. However, the authors tend to include a strong point by arguing that women are naturally incorporated in the labor market because they are used to monotonous and competitive work (Elson and Pearson, 87-107).

In ‘The Gender Dimensions of the Globalization of Production’, Barrientos et al states that global production is primarily a female employment plan that has seen many people claim it to be a practice of feminization in the labor force. Though this is a presumption by many people, a woman’s earnings adds greatly to family survival. In fact, the researchers use this as the main point of argument, where they argue that women should not be seen as secondary earners. As previously, stated by Elson and Pearson (53), women are flexible in their duties. This makes them better placed in performing non-formal duties. According to Barrientos et al (76), having responsibilities at home and the workplace may hinder them from obtaining working opportunities. However, with the short-term labor that they engage in, they are at a better position to push for a leading position in the world labor market, in the family and in the society.

Global production unions have developed equitable terms where policies have been addressed in a manner that aims at balancing the roles of women in reproductive and productive activities. According to the authors, this ceases to be a constraint to hinder women from getting job benefits. To ensure that the turnover rate is low in women, Barrientos et al (52) have discussed developmental goals that had been formulated in the United Nations Millennium Summit. The summit’s role was to ensure eradication of poverty levels in the world, improve on education in women and most important, to ensure gender equality to enhance women empowerment. It is through women empowerment that Barrientos et al to conclude that increased productivity will be achieved and their reproduction capabilities will bring forth synergy in human development.

As the authors indicate, childcare might slow down the productivity of women towards economic prosperity but with the willingness of women to invest, there is a high probability of achieving development. The strength of this article is that women are seen to be the major contributors of society growth and they can be considered the root of development and prosperity in a country. This is due to their capability of balancing family and work life at the same time (Barrientos et al 42).

In “Women’s work: gender and labor relations in Malaysia” Kaur deals with gender and labor laws in Malaysia. Here, the author sees labor as a unique way in which social relations can be enhanced. In addition, Kaur argues that through labor, economic partnership with other countries have been achieved through industrialization. With internationalization of almost all economies after the Second World War, division of labor became increasingly internationalized due to increased number of production industries. In Malaysia, this saw many women grabbing job opportunities in factories as they offered incentives, which served as attractions to women. It also saw more women opting to work in the industries as compared to farms turning around the agricultural methods to greenhouse farming. The author brings out the aspect of more women participating in jobs that were believed to belong to men such as in the electronics field. Even with division of labor, women still experience intimidation from their counterparts. Through perseverance, they have observed discipline and are now in control of most productions. This therefore indicates that women are no longer in the level of being lowly paid and are competing against the men. A strong point the author states is the continuous growth that Malaysia as a country has experienced due to embracing gender division of labor. The author has laid much emphasis on how cheap this industries offer in terms of wages and does not defend this point but sees it as a way of increasing foreign capital rather than taking individual needs. A strong stand the author states is that this kind of industrialization is placing women in a higher position to acquire more finances even as they work for these factories (Kaur 27).

The article by Iversen and Rosenbluth explains the variation of income in different countries stating that this has been a challenge in the modern economies. The author argues the family as the basic unit which is to produce maximum welfare in the development of an economy hence this is an argument as to which spouse is responsible for catering the finances and expenses of a family unit. The author has mentioned situations where a husband limits his wife from being employed. In fact, this acts as a limitation towards getting enough income to cater for the family. This is because men assume that when women are exposed to the employment world, chances are high that she will ignore her responsibilities as caretaker and exit marriage. Female labor force participation, as economists have found have reduced the burden of house work where in a family unit, both the husband and wife working is seen to be much more comfortable in their financial status. As mentioned by other authors, there still exists the limitation of not being offered the same job opportunities even with the right skills required but this has not deterred women from coming out of the cocoon of being oppressed. The author mentions that women are the stakeholders towards a rich democracy as for a long time they have been victims of discrimination and with women leadership, a lot of investment will be put to ensure women are better placed in the society (Iversen and Rosenbluth 17).

The article by Busse and Spielmann focuses on the effects of discrimination on gender. This has brought about a comparative advantage in trade and foreign investment. With different forms of discrimination mentioned in the book, results have been given as to its effects in different countries. Though gender inequality has been seen to have positive effects by the authors, in the developing countries, embracing this would mean bias and non-productivity in the national income. The authors major their topic on discrimination, claiming that it can be indirect or direct. In factories, this can take the direction of part time working and full time working. Women fall in the category of part time workers and though this may discourage men from working, it works towards promotion of equality where the women are to take care of their families and at the same time attend to work in the firms. In terms of discrimination, women are still seen to lag behind in their literacy levels. In health opportunities, there is discrimination experienced where more deaths are seen in women and reduced birth due to lack of health provisions. The authors have also mentioned job opportunities discrimination where more men than women have are involved in formal job opportunities. This, as mentioned by other authors, have created a gap between both genders and this makes women go back to agriculture giving a lot of output but receiving minimal income in terms of returns (Busse and Spielmann 97).

Conclusion

To conclude on the literature review, Elson and Pearson have clearly stated that educating a woman and giving her a chance in employment reduces poverty levels in developing countries. Further, it has been estimated that there is reduced cost in employing women rather than men in such industries as women are seen to be good at multitasking compared to men. This means that there is differentiation in the labor productivity where it is believed that the differentiation is natural with innate abilities being sought in employment. An important point that Barrientos et al stated is that equitable terms have been developed by global production unions where policies have been addressed on ways to balance women roles in reproductive and productive activities so that this cannot be a constraint to hinder women from getting job benefits. The authors also see the struggle of women as childcare indicates that there is slow down on their productivity towards economic prosperity but with the willingness of women to invest, there is a high probability of achieving development. Kaur sees labor relations as part of social relations where In Malaysia, a lot of women are grabbing job opportunities in factories as they offer incentives which serve as an attraction to women. Kaur also mentions that the gender labor policy has seen more women opting to work in the industries. Though a discouragement to division of labor, women still experience intimidation from their male counterparts but women are patient and observe discipline, which has now made them in control of most production industries. The author of “The Political Economy of Gender: Explaining Cross-National Variation in the Gender Division of Labor and the Gender Voting Gap” points out that a man assume that when women are exposed to the employment world, chances are high that she will ignore her responsibilities as caretaker and exit marriage. This is not the case because women have the ability to multitask and can contribute in both home and work activities equally. Female labor force participation has reduced the burden of housework. For instance, in a family unit, it is much more comfortable for a working couple, especially because they can share financial responsibilities. Busse and Spielmann (51) have concentrated on the various types of discrimination that women undergo through and this has explained the reason why they have always been behind in terms of developing the economy. A remedy that can be given in the above discussion is that there should be a lot of women empowerment in all countries as it is through empowering a woman that a whole country benefits.

Works Cited

Barrientos, Stephanie, Naila Kabeer, and Naomi Hossain. The Gender Dimensions of the Globalization of Production. Geneva: International Labour Organization, 2004. Print.

Busse, Matthias and Spielmann, Christian. Gender Discrimination and the International Division of Labour. Hamburg: Hamburg Institute of International Economics, 2004. Print.

Elson, Diane and Ruth Pearson. “Nimble Fingers make Cheap Workers: An Analysis of Women’s Employment in Third World Export Manufacturing,” Feminist Review 7.1 (2001), pp. 87 – 107.

Iversen, Torben and Frances Rosenbluth. “The Political Economy of Gender: Explaining Cross-National Variation in the Gender Division of Labor and the Gender Voting Gap”. American Journal of Political Science. 50.1. (2006). Print.

Kaur, Amarjit. Women’s work: gender and labour relations in Malaysia. CLARA : Amsterdam, 1999. Print.

Nash, June and María Patricia. Women, Men, and the International Division of Labor. New York, NY: Sunny press, 2011. Print.