will not change the situation of women. These women workers are disadvantaged both as women and as workers. The quality of employment and the technology used by the industry will be a determining factor in deciding the position of women. The interests of those employed need not be sacrificed to create new employment. If meaningful steps are to be taken to improve the status of women workers, Government must necessarily pay serious attention to those in employment.
The competing costs and benefits of industrialisation based on new technology is evident in the case of Sri Lanka where the government's programme of '200 Garment Factories’ in rural and semi-urban areas has helped raise the standard of living of many poor families. However, the jobs, filled mainly by young women are in assembly line production and involve very monotonous work. These jobs require very low skill levels and are so narrowly focused that they provide no opportunity for skills development.
Furthermore, gaining such a job brings a young women a measure of financial independence but when combined with marriage, the workload becomes excessive. Women then are not only the main bread winners but must fulfil the traditional workload of the housewife.
Although new technology is supposed to make processes simpler, in some cases, it can require workers with higher educational or training levels. This discriminates against women if educational opportunities favour boys rather than girls. Take the example of the textile industry in Viet Nam. "Those workers with a low educational level meet difficulties in applying new technologies - this runs counter to the requirement of new technologies. In order to create favourable conditions for women to raise their level it is necessary to work out policies and regimes that give priority to training and organizing of classes and child care centers suitable to the situation of women as well as to develop a suitable literacy program which both ensures basic knowledge and is closely linked with the practical production. ... It is necessary to develop planned vocational training in various forms appropriate to female workers throughout their whole working life with consideration given to their specific physical characters. To use female workers in a flexible way it is necessary to help them have 2 or 3 different occupations so that they can change their jobs when necessary."
Conditions in the Viet Nam textiles industry are not unlike many others described in the reports of
the investigations. "Female workers have far more housework to do than men. In addition, the travelling time also affects the labor intensity of female workers. A research among a group of female workers in the textile industry shows that 22.06% of them have to cover a distance of less that 5 kilometers to work while the rest have to go a longer distance. 97.06% go to work by bicycle and 2.94% by motorcycle. Factories and enterprises do not have their own vehicles to transport workers while their travelling time does not coincide with public buses’ timetable, ... All the above said factors affect workers’ health.
The report also describes the health impact of the work itself, notably high levels of noise, high levels of dust in the air. And added to this is the fact that the women's pay is low. As a result, many women give up this work either because they cannot afford to sustain their family or they health has failed.
All the cases cited above are of women working in regular places of work: the formal sector. However, a much larger number of women work in what is called the informal sector. Indeed, the rate of labour participation in the informal sector has increased as a
to be continued on pg.24
Contents | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 24 | 25 | 26
Asian Women Workers Newsletter Vol. 16 No. 4 October 1997