Mobilisation possibilities have led to magnified effects of threats by capitalists to control the wages of workers. Governments in both developed and developing countries are forced to adopt conservative macroeconomic policies because of the need to attract financial inflows and prevent capital flights.
The new form of imperialism is different from the old one. This new form uses multilateral institutions and rule-based regimes to further their aims. Whereas, the old one in the earlier periods of history, resolved their issues through a more direct military or political means. This new imperialism can be seen when the World Trade Organization enforces upon member developing countries many comprehensive changes in their economic policies and legal systems, which expose domestic producers and workers to competition from larger, more powerful or more heavily subsidized players.
Despite these invasive changes, developing countries’ governments typically prefer to join the multilateral grouping because being left out can have even more adverse consequences, especially for nations with huge population like India and China.
Interestingly, even though there has been something of a global boom in commodity markets and in certain developing economies in the past decade. Employment generation has not really picked up amongst consumers and the agrarian crisis continues to plague most developing countries (Jayati Ghosh, ‘Never done and poorly paid’). This is so apt for India, where on one hand it is the largest growing economy in the world but on the other, it is plagued with serious issues like unemployment and farmer suicides. These issues, however, have not been paid heed to by the governments, and continue to remain in place even if the government changes.
A crucial feature of these kinds of work processes across the globe has been the increase in unpaid labor. Now, the important questions one needs to ask are- Where are these unpaid labor performed? and Who performs this unpaid labor? Sadly, but not surprisingly, it is within the households that it is performed, predominantly by women.
As governments renege on basic social responsibilities related to the provision of public goods and services, more of the “care economy“ devolves onto the unpaid sector. This peculiar combination of increased unemployment and increased requirement of unpaid labour is a common attribute of labour markets globally.
The above factors have acted as a catalyst towards the trend of “feminisation of employment” in Asian countries. This was actually a result of employers needing cheaper and more “flexible” sources of labour, which meant more casualization of labor, shift to part-time work or piece rate contracts, and an insistence on greater freedom of hiring and firing.
Women workers were preferred by employers in export activities primarily because of the inferior conditions of work and wages that they were usually willing to accept. They had lower expectations for wages than their male counterparts and more willing to accept longer hours, unpleasant and often unhealthy or hazardous working conditions. Typically they did not unionize or engage in other forms of collective bargaining to improve their conditions and did not ask for permanent contracts. They were thus easier to hire and fire at will, or according to the external demand conditions (Jayati Ghosh, ‘Never done and poorly paid’).
Was this really “feminisation” of women’s employment or was it instrumentalization of women’s labor in the name of “development“? With this being the scenario historically, the future vision of “working women’s” lives disheartens me.