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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development

Globalisation, Export-oriented Employment for Women and Social Policy: A Case Study of India (Draft)



This paper seeks to examine the Indian experience with respect to women’s employment in export-oriented manufacturing industry in the era of globalisation. It also considers the role of social policy in providing work and survival security to women, by first evaluating the effects of state policy, and then considering other attempts to ensure minimum security to women workers. The first section sets out some of the issues with respect to the feminisation of labour in export-oriented employment, and situates the discussion in the context of the experience of the high-exporting East Asian economies in the 1990s. The evidence pointing to a fall in the share of women in export-oriented manufacturing employment even before the onset of the East Asian crisis is considered, and the possible reasons for it are discussed. With this background, the next section briefly highlights the important trends with respect to aggregate female employment in the Indian manufacturing sector over the 1990s. It is argued that much of the use of female labour in export production in India has been in informal and unorganised workplaces, including home-based work, with associated implications for pay, working conditions and consequently also for social policy. The cases of Export Oriented Units (EOUs) and Export Processing Zones (EPZs) are then taken up in the third section, with specific attention to what such employment has meant for job, material and social security. Issues relating to social protection of female labour through the agency of the state and other examples of attempts to provide social security are considered in the final section. In this section there is also an argument for the need to have a macroeconomic perspective on the conditions for improving employment conditions for women workers, which would have wider applicability to other developing countries as well.

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