Policies are implemented within an institutional setting that
dictates the distribution of costs and benefits. Among the challenges
that we face today is the need to create a set of policy and legal
instruments that will reconstruct the gender-biased institutional
setting within which globalisation currently operates. The markets
have generated a structure of incentives that encourages women to undertake productive activities.
But we know of hardly any incentives to encourage men to take
over caring responsibilities. The result is that social reproduction
is being moved out of the households and into the privatised market
sphere in what appears to be a move out of the frying pan and
into the fire.
the characteristics of the current wave of globalisation is the rise of
the service industry and the increase in trade of services activities.
Developed countries that are leading
the way have progressively become more service-led economies over
the last two decades. These economies have prized highly
skill-intensive, knowledge-intensive and technology-intensive services since
these provide the highest returns and largest added value. Meanwhile,
the de-industrialised manufacturing sectors of developed
have increasingly moved their operations to developing countries
in the form of foreign direct investment while retaining control
over productive activities in their headquarters.
sector in developing countries echoes the characteristics of the
low-skilled, low-value-added nature of their manufacturing sectors,
which have declined as a result of competitive threats from imported
substitutes brought in by trade liberalisation. Thus, the polarisation
between developed and developing
worlds remains and even intensifies.
industrial and employment structural shift occurs, women are unable to move
up the value-added ladder since the possession of skills, knowledge
and technology continues to favour men. Furthermore, services
sectors that support social reproductive work, such as community,
social and personal services, education
and health services, are losing public financial support as the
market is being presented as a more efficient method of providing
these services. This occurs at a time when the stability of government
budgets is constantly threatened by waves of financial
and economic crisis.
care, however, must continue, and "socially imposed altruism"
is relied upon to ensure that provision occurs. Ascribing caring
roles to women puts them under
the double burden of productive and social reproductive work.
The nature of the service sub-sectors where women are heavily
involved are determined by these role expectations. The sub-sectors
differ according to whether women predominantly act as consumers
or act both as consumers and producers. In the case of the latter,
services are least valued as they tend to be dichotomised between
the formally regulated and the informally regulated, with women
in the informal sector being most vulnerable to crisis.
of trade liberalisation and globalisation has placed a focus
on the service sector, which used to be considered non-tradable.
The insistence of investment as a way of trading services facilitates
the opening of service markets to foreign interests. When coupled
with privatisation of state assets
and corporations in the sector, the marketisation of services
for social reproduction is practically guaranteed.
rise of the service economy
have negotiations over tariffs in manufactured exports lost relevance
over the recent decades, but developed
have also seen a shift in their industrial and employment structure
from manufacturing to services mainly because of technological
advances and ever increasing specialisation. By the mid-1990s,
the share of services in the gross domestic product of industrialised
countries was around 70%. Newly industrialised economies have
services at around the 50-60% range while developing countries
are close to 40% (Kang,
this period there has been a perceived decline in the price of
services, particularly for transport and communication. Jones
and Kierzkowski (1990)
that this decline explains the increased use by manufacturing
firms of global production chains as a production strategy. Thus,
we find a fragmentation of production into production blocks
that are then distributed among various countries, mainly developing
countries. Certainly, the intermediate goods produced by these
productions blocks constitute much of global trade today. According
to Milberg (1999), trade within
firms now represents 30-50% of the trade volume of the major
industrialised countries. This means that imported inputs are
becoming increasingly important for these countries. Much of
this has been made possible by the decline in the price of transport,
which has lowered the cost of the physical movement of goods
and the decline in the price of communication, which has lowered
the cost of coordination between the headquarters and the production
spread of the production process across the globe comes the need
for other supporting services such as finance,
and legal services to follow in the wake of fragmentation of production.
Corporations using this production
strategy have to decide whether these support services will continue
to be supplied internally within the firm or outsourced to the
service market. The rise in the number of service firms indicates
that many have chosen the latter course. These services have to
take on a trans-national character in order to service their corporate
clients and, therefore, there is a push to open up service markets
to these multinational service corporations.
At the same
time, the location choice of the production blocks depends upon
the availability of cheap labour -usually female-and
a set of fiscal and other economic incentives provided by the
governments of developing countries to encourage foreign direct
is not only happening among production firms. Households are
also experiencing a similar kind of fragmentation; more and more
socially reproductive services are being outsourced as more and
more women participate in productive activities in the market.
The rise in women's participation in the labour force, encouraged
by export-oriented policies, cannot be understood simply as a
contribution to economic growth. However, women's participation
in production is conditional on the presence of a replacement
for neglected social reproductive work.
work covers those services that have clear caring functions, which
are particularly important in a setting where there are dependants-children, elderly and the
infirm. Women's role as primary care providers is a social imposition.
Social norms on family obligation assign to women the greater
responsibility for care. Feminist economists have sometimes referred
to the provision of these services as the "care economy".
women enter the workforce, the household work that they traditionally
performed must still be done. The replacement for the working
woman can take many forms. It might be timesaving household appliances
such as washing machines and dryers, laundromats or vacuum cleaners.
It might be the laundrywoman or the housekeeper, part-time cooks
or fast food delivery chains. It might be full-time nannies,
babysitters on an hourly basis, or childcare services. It might
be the elder daughters, the grandparents, or any other member
of the family. The increase in hiring of domestic services helps
explain to a certain extent the informal service market, which
is mainly made up of these services. The provision of care is
thus undertaken in the following ways: through the unpaid labour
of female members of the household, through technological advances
in household appliances, or through the service market.
of domestic services may not be as complex and sophisticated
as the global production chains but it can and does take on a
global character. In developed countries where both female and
male labour force participation rates are very high and kinship
systems are no longer a reliable source of support, the domestic
services must be bought from the market.
in high stress situations characterise many services provided
by women, such as nursing, teaching, and domestic care work. Rules
on international migration are conveniently amended to fill the
gaps in labour supply for these sectors. The Philippines is well
known to provide domestic servants to families in Hong Kong, for
example. There is also recruitment in some Caribbean countries,
to provide teachers to the US public school system.
occupational segregation as discussed is echoed in female-male
wage inequality. This segregation accounts for a significant
portion of the gender wage gap. And since the rise of the service
economy depends to a great extent on skills, knowledge and technology,
one can expect a widening of this gender wage gap in the future.
already established an exacerbation of inequality in profits
and earnings within the global cities that have served as the
base for service industries. An additional stimulus to greater
inequality is the increasing "casualization" of employment
in the service sector as firms have less demand for intermediate
skills and full-time employment.
decline of publicly provided services
it is not very easy to identify what we mean by publicly provided
services. There are many terms: social services, social welfare,
social funds, social insurance, social safety nets, social security,
social policy, social budgets, and so on. These
terms refer to a mode of delivery but they all contain social
services. Whatever we mean by publicly provided services, the
provision of services has been threatened by budget cuts and privatisation,
especially in debt-burdened economies. Publicly provided
services have been sold to private companies or now use a voucher
system or impose a form of user fee. When privatisation is coupled
with trade liberalisation, the general experience is that the
burden of social care will intensify for women, since women are
the default providers of care.
when public services are available some questions have to be
raised regarding the nature of these services. Infrastructure
services do not meet the needs of female users. Social services
have a paternalistic approach to the provision of care. Social
welfare and insurance rely on the concept of a male breadwinner
when programmes are developed.
may be divided into infrastructure services and social services.
These two could not be farther apart from each other. Both, however,
are very important to women. The difference between these two
is in the manner of participation by women as producers or as
users. Infrastructure services tend to carry a male gender association
because men dominate the design, engineering and constructions
aspects while women tend to be users of these services. Water
and energy infrastructure in rural areas could help lower the
time girls spend in collecting water and firewood and thus increase
the time available for schooling, if planning and design recognised
women as primary users of these services.
picture is drawn with social services where women are generally
involved in both its production and use. Rather than women being
able to control and determine the nature of provision as producers
and users of social services, they have to accept that service
provision at present is paternalistic, serving only to support
and reinforce the "caregiver" roles of women. Since
women are directly involved in the care of the family, they should
be the ones receiving income support or be the target of social
subsidies. Immunisation programmes, nutrition programmes, and
so on, tend to target mothers, for example. This approach can
be criticised for taking an instrumentalist view of women.
welfare programmes have not adjusted to the rise of the service
economy. As the labour market becomes more informal and casual,
welfare regimes based on the traditional manufacturing employment
relations become irrelevant. Not only is there a need to reorient
social welfare and insurance away from its male breadwinner bias
(Elson and Cagatay, 2000), but reorientation is also needed to
include those now outside of the regulatory scope as well as
those beginning to fall outside of the regulatory scope of public
social support in line with the reorganisation of the labour
is not to say, however, that such programmes do not help women.
These are necessary and supportive of their caring functions
and help to ease their social reproductive burdens. The criticism
with these programmes involves their inability to challenge the
gender norms of caring.
challenges that we face today is the need to create a set of policy
and legal instruments that will reconstruct the gender-biased
institutional setting within which globalisation currently operates.
Policymakers can no longer ignore the interactions between economic
policy and gender norms. The latter invariably dictate social
behaviour and reaction to economic policies.
are implemented within an institutional setting that dictates
the distribution of the costs and benefits. Policy instruments
are chafing against rigid institutions. The policies themselves
cannot be expected to change the institutional arrangement of
property rights and care obligations because they are not created
to do so. The inconsistent results that literature on gender
and trade have found are explained by this separation of the
policy instrument from its institutional setting.
challenges by women and the women's movement to the institutional
arrangements have been made, resistance remains strong. We know
that the markets have generated a structure of incentives that
encourages women to undertake productive activities. But we know
of hardly any incentives to encourage men to take over caring
a dilemma for feminist advocates and
Policymakers only want to talk about policies and not about the
interaction of policies with institutions. Without serious attention
paid to the institutions, economic policy will always fail women.
In the worst cases, policies will exploit women.
while there are differing views on the analysis of the care economy,
there is agreement on the "concerns about the future quality
of life in a capitalist marketplace in which paid care services
are playing an increasingly important role" (Badgett and Folbre,
Gender-blind policies are converging to move social reproduction
out of the households and into the privatised market sphere in
what appears to be a move out of the frying pan and into the
Diane Elson and
Nilufer Cagatay. "The social content of macroeconomic policies,"
World Development, 28(7): pp. 1347-1364, 2000.
M.V. Lee Badgett
and Nancy Folbre. "Assigning care: gender norms and economic
outcomes," International Labour Review, Vol. 138 (1999),
No. 3, pp. 311-326, 1999.
Ronald W. Jones
and Henryk Kierzkowski. "The role of services in production
and international trade: a theoretical framework," in Ronald
R. Jones and Anne Krueger, eds. The Political Economy of International
Trade. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990.
"The services sector in output and international trade,"
in Christopher Findlay and Tony Warren, eds. Impediments to Trade
in Services: Measurement and Policy Implications. London: Routledge,
"Foreign Direct Investment and Development: Balancing Costs
and Benefits," in International Monetary and Financial Issues
for the 1990s Vol. XI, Geneva: UNCTAD, 1999.
Globalization and Its Discontents: Essays on the New Mobility
of People and Money. New York: The New Press, 1998.