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workers increased 552% in 1992 compared to 1991."

The role of the union is crucial in negotiating policies for the employment of part-time and temporary workers. In SIS, the Korea securities company studied, the employment of part-time and temporary workers was limited to relatively minor jobs such as answering telephones and delivering papers. This is because the union resisted the company's employment policy to increase the number of part-time and temporary workers.

In general, however, we can agree with the analysis that the "division of labor, which confines women mostly to being tellers, makes women much more vulnerable to redundancy during a recession. Therefore, employment instability led by either computerization or economic fluctuation is still regarded as a 'women's issue’ rather than an issue for all workers."

Sri Lanka

Financial services

Labour intensification is usually a result of computerisation. The following passage from a report on the banking sector in Sri Lanka, speaks for a great many other women employed in similar clerical jobs:

"Virtually all women working on computers complained of eye strain and headache, arising from their work. ... Even though the physical work environment was considered to be comfortable,

these employees mentioned that they often felt stressed in their work as they found it quite demanding to cope with both efficiency and speed. They also commented that one had to be quite alert and physically fit to meet the demanding nature of the work which had increased in quantum."

This Sri Lankan study notes that "overall women have not been displaced by technological developments .. but occupational crowding at secretarial levels has been reinforced. Their work load and pressures on time have been intensified in response to the need for 'efficiency and speed’ and 'customer satisfaction’, as cogs in a vast machine, thereby increasing their vulnerability to occupational health problems. It appears that women's material functions, which have yet to be accepted as a social responsibility, are a greater disadvantage than technology in their access to at least some sectors in employment."


This is an electronics factory employing 95% young women in 'semi-skilled’ jobs. These women make components for the electronics industry but they use manual methods, dependent for accuracy on their 'nimble fingers’ rather than machines. Nevertheless, they are classed as only 'semi-skilled’ and earn, in their words, a meagre wage.

The women are well educated and thought they would be getting a technical job when they were recruited. Instead they do dirty and strenuous work with many health

hazards. The most common consequences of the work are eye strain and loss of vision, lead poisoning, skin rashes and catarrh. The factory has been closed at least twice because so many production workers were incapacitated by nausea, eye irritation, skin rashes and dizziness.

A union, recognised by management, is in place and has 90% membership. It has been effective in forcing the company to comply with state employment legislation for terms and conditions of employment but it has not been able, or has not tried, to improve these very hazardous working conditions. Once an outbreak of nausea, dizziness, eye irritation and skin rashes affected so many workers the factory had to be closed.

The quality of employment and the technology used by the industry will be a determining factor in deciding the position of women....

A state inspector blamed insufficient ventilation but the women insisted it was the chemicals they use, which were not properly examined. Management insisted it was German measles but none of the other women living in the dormitory were infected. The problems persist but the union has still not been effective in improving the situation.

"The study clearly shows that the provision of employment alone

Contents | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 24 | 25 | 26
Asian Women Workers Newsletter Vol. 16 No. 4 October 1997