Date: Tue, 3 Mar 98 11:55:09 CST
From: rich%pencil@VTBIT.CC.VT.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Globalisation Hits Women Worst
Article: 29232

/** ips.english: 501.0 **/
** Topic: DEVELOPMENT: Globalisation Hits Women Worst//EMBARGOED// **
** Written 3:05 PM Mar 2, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Globalisation Hits Women Worst

By Farhan Haq, InterPress Service, 27 February 1998

NEW YORK, Mar 1 (IPS)—Financial austerity measures, and the fallout from economic globalisation, have had a disproportionate effect on women's advancement worldwide, forcing them into low-paying jobs or unemployment, says a new study.

The survey, ‘Mapping Progress: Assessing Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action’, says that 70 percent of the 187 countries which attended the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing have drawn up action plans to advance women's rights since then.

Despite such prompt action in implementing the Beijing commitments, the record of governments in providing resources for women is patchy at best, says the report—produced by the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). In many cases, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) report that economic adjustment policies in their nations have hindered women's access to employment, health care, education, property, credit and housing.

NGOs submitted reports to WEDO on the progress of 88 countries in implementing the Beijing accords. Of the nations surveyed, 45 percent recently enacted macro-economic policies that caused a downturn in women's employment and 28 percent instituted cutbacks in female education.

“On balance, women are still the shock absorbers for structural change,” says Susan Davis, WEDO's executive director.

Particularly hard hit have been the “transitional economies” of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where free-market policies have resulted in cuts in public childcare and dramatic job losses for women, who are often the first employees targeted for ’efficiencies' by privatising companies.

Women's unemployment averaged 70 percent in Armenia, Russia, Bulgaria and Croatia, and topped 80 percent in Ukraine. “Further, the state's failure to finance benefits under new laws that seek to provide support for mothers and pregnant women in the workforce, as in Croatia and the Ukraine, have made women too expensive to hire,” the report adds.

In other countries, the report argues, women have become disproportionately concentrated into the low end of jobs produced through globalisation—notably in export-processing zones which demand “cheap and docile labour that can be used in low-skill, repetitive jobs in unsafe and insecure conditions without minimum guarantees.”

NGOs in Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Mexico all complained about the effects of the global economy in diminishing women's livelihoods.

“The feminisation of the labour force begins with women being dispossessed of land and other means of production and being left with only their energy, which cannot be used in their home countries,” reports the Malaysian NGO ‘Tenaganita’. “This marginalisation intensifies under the process of globalisation and migration.”

Several entire economies depend on the profits of overseas women migrant workers, who “suffer gross violations of their human rights, ranging from inhuman working conditions to phhysical violence, and even rape and murder.” Concern for women migrants' labour conditions abroad is particularly strong in the Philippines, which has monitored reports of abuse of domestic workers, especially in the Middle East, the report adds.

Adjustment policies at the same time have forced governments to implement policies that conflict with the goals of the Beijing summit, several NGOs argue.

“Chronic budget deficits, internal and external debts, low savings, high inflation rates, combined with political instability, relegate the commitment to women's concerns to the back burner,” says ‘Shirkat Gah’, a Pakistani women's group.

NGOs in 27 of the 88 countries surveyed reported that the budget for women's programmes has grown since the 1995 Beijing conference, but another 28 said that the budget has remained the same while eight reported a decrease. In Germany, the budget for women's programmes has declined by an average of 20 percent over the past three years, while Guatemala's has fallen by 60 percent over the same period.

Even industrialised countries like Canada have suffered sharp declines: Women's programmes have been slashed by Ottawa from 12 million dollars to 8 million dollars in the past three years, while Canada is second only to Japan among industrialised countries in providing low-wage employment to women.

WEDO is more optimistic about women's progress on other fronts. Sixty-six countries have already set up national offices for women's affairs, the survey says, while 58 have passed new laws or policies addressing women's rights.

Laws to prevent or punish domestic violence were passed in 26 countries, including many Latin American states, China and New Zealand, while Egypt banned female genital mutilation in state-run and private facilities and Thailand clamped down on the trafficking of women and children.

Overall, the report indicates “incremental progress by governments in implementing the Beijing agenda and the growing political strength of women's movements across the world,” says Bharati Sadasivam, WEDO programme coordinator for women's rights and organiser of the survey.