ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Globalisation and Informalisation

Globalisation has had a twofold impact on working women - growing informalisation and fragmentation of work on one hand and expansion of opportunities, on the other. However, the onus of protecting worker rights lies with the government, which more often than not abdicates its responsibility. A recent international workshop in Seoul concluded with six core demands that included among others - implementation of core ILO conventions and setting up secure social safety nets for women workers.

An international women workers’ workshop in Seoul from October 15-17, 2000 focused on the paradox that globalisation – the integration of production and markets on a global scale – has been accompanied by informalisation and fragmentation of employment. It was organised by three networks of groups working with women workers: the Korean Women Workers’ Associations United (KWWAU), the Committee for Asian Women (CAW), and Women Working Worldwide (WWW). There were participants from Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Bulgaria and Mexico. The aim of the workshop was to assess how globalisation has been affecting women workers, and to discuss strategies of resistance.

In almost all cases, globalisation had led to informalisation of employment, although there were wide differences in the way this situation developed. In Korea, for example, globalisation at first had a positive impact, creating jobs in the formal sector, but in the 1990s, sectors such as footwear and garments were moved to countries like China and Indonesia, leaving large numbers of women workers jobless and forced to look for work in the informal sector. The crisis of 1997 worsened problems of unemployment and insecurity. In India, on the other hand, shifting of production into the vast informal sector was already taking place prior to trade liberalisation. In most cases, there were more women in the informal sector even before the current phase of globalisation. Trade liberalisation had intensified competition between companies, leading them to cut costs by informalising employment, and between governments, who were attempting to attract investment and boost exports by attacking labour rights.

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