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Women's Employment in the Textile Manufacturing Sectors of Bangladesh and Morocco

Chapter 3: Gender and employment in Moroccan textile industries, by Rahma Bourqia

The present study looks at gender relations both in the household and in the factory and the way in which these determine gender discrimination in the labour market. It hopes to demonstrate how gender hierarchies, which have been firmly established by society, are extended and maintained in the factory. Moreover, since factories themselves are not monolithic in terms of employment practices and production methods, the chapter also attempts to compare women’s experiences in different sectors of the textile export industries.

The woman worker is caught up in power relationships which determine her position in the hierarchy of the factory and the negotiation of her wages. One could deduce from this a relationship of total exploitation and obedience, with the woman worker in a situation of total dependence, at the service of the factory and with no bargaining power. But this would be to simplify the complexity of the strategies used both by the factory and by the women workers to maximize their benefits and preserve their interests. In other words, it would underplay the role of human agency.

This chapter argues that unequal gender relations within the family and the society are carried into the factory and reproduced there. Gender subordination functions throughout the employment process, influencing the choice of sector, access to employment, recruitment, type of job, experience, and wage levels. Certain values and norms that underpin gender inequality, like the submission of women to authority, their lack of ambition, their humility and their willingness to accept manual tasks which require dexterity are, from the viewpoint of the factory, positive attributes for the productivity process. Indeed, as this chapter hopes to demonstrate, patriarchal forms of control are used by factory owners and managers to consolidate their power over women workers and to maximize production in their factories. These observations raise questions about the extent to which paid employment contributes to women’s “emancipation”. Is it not yet another terrain where the consequences of gender subordination are evident?

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