Despite a high demand for workers, most are considered 'irregular’ with no security. They get no holidays, sick leave, maternity leave or paid benefits. So turnover is fairly high. In the Bangladesh garment factories where interviews took place, there are no trade unions. The situation could be changed if trade union activities were allowed but workers are threatened with the sack and terrorised by hired thugs if they try.
Just as in banking, Bangladeshi women have benefited from new technology in the garment industry because it has created new employment for women, giving them greater earning power than before. Women also see the potential to raise skills and increase knowledge through their jobs. However, increasingly, women’s jobs are being replaced as new technology replaces old technology. Moreover, as women in Bangladesh have not had less education and less technical training than men, those jobs dealing directly with the new technology tend to go to men. So as more women lose their jobs, more jobs will go to men. Therefore, new technology will continue to have a negative impact on women as long as they lack the necessary education and training to give them the necessary skills and ability to go on to acquire even more new skills.
The use of new technology intensifies production. Employers strive to make their workforce more productive so that he can pay for this new equipment. Prolonged and intensive work patterns puts greater stress on work-
ers’ bodies so that eye strain, repetitive strain injury of various types and kidney problems due to insufficient toilet breaks and facilities are all common problems. Furthermore, production workers are also subject to injuries from the equipment itself: 30% of those interviewed had suffered injuries or electrical shocks from the machines. Injuries are more frequent as workers become tired from over work. The long term effects of working in such a dusty fibre-filled atmosphere, made worse by the higher levels of production brought about by the use of new technology, are ignored by employers. Fire is a constant hazard in these large unregulated buildings filled with flammable materials yet no precautions are taken.
Women are bound by social definitions of suitability for types of work. At one level, women should not (legally, at least) carry heavy loads, but when technology makes the carrying easier, men are supposed to be better at it. All the tasks in between fall to women.
In Korea, women workers in a securities company were the main target of the company’s workforce reduction policy, brought about by the introduction of new technology. Computerisation was used as a means of reducing the workforce in a time of
said by management to be the only way to improve customer service. Men were affected least because they worked mainly in sales, a type of work considered unsuitable for women. Women were mainly tellers, each performing a different customer service. The effect of computerisation was to bring all of these services within the scope of each teller. Many women were made redundant as a result.
In Korea, the jobs of telephone operators, who are all women, have also been cut by the introduction of new technology. "According to one personnel manager, the technologies KT is trying to introduce combine the characteristics of both factory automation and office automation. This means that the nature and processes of the technologies at KT are, and will be, much more diverse and complex".
The introduction of new technology can de-stabilise the workforce by bringing in the idea of 'flexibility'. So, KT does not hire any new operators for 13 years and does not replace retired workers, while computerising the system. Management says that these workers are “extraneous” but at the same time they employ part time/temporary workers to fill the gap.
"Computerization has created more low-skill, and more repetitive jobs than before. This is regarded as one of the main factors accelerating the employment of temporary workers. In the case of banks ... women part-time
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Asian Women Workers Newsletter Vol. 16 No. 4 October 1997