Date: Wed, 11 Mar 98 00:44:39 CST
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: LABOUR: Globalisation Devastates Women, Say Unions
Article: 29706
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** ips.english: 487.0 **/
** Topic: ECONOMY-LABOUR: Globalisation Devastates Women, Say Unions **
** Written 2:40 PM Mar 7, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Globalisation Devastates Women, Say Unions

By Thalif Deen, InterPress Service, 4 March 1998

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 4 (IPS)—A coalition of more than 200 trade union affiliates is blaming free trade—and globalisation of the world economy—for a rapid deterioration in the social and economic standing of women throughout the world.

“Globalisation of markets, structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), free trade and investment agreements had turned out to be devastating for women,” says Nancy Riche of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), a coalition of 206 affiliates in 141 countries.

The 125-million strong ICFTU, 43 percent of whom are women, points out that free trade has resulted in a proliferation of sweat shops—where most of the victimised workers are women.

Addressing the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, Riche said that economic processing zones (EPZs) in developing countries were the scene of “some of the most brutal forms of exploitation of female and male workers.”

These EPZs attracted the big corporations from the north who churned out consumer products exclusively for the export market.

“Women who had attempted to unionise had been dismissed,” Riche said and cited a case in which two women, one of whom was pregnant, had been attacked with clubs and left to die in an EPZ in the Dominican Republic. “Globalisation of trade, and competition combined with deregulation of national financial and labour markets, has reinforced inequalities for women.”

Riche said that large numbers of women, including an even larger percentage of part-timers, were going without basic benefits, such as paid sick leave, health coverage and pension plans. The current economic crisis in Asia also is having a severe impact on women, and of the two million workers who lost their jobs in Thailand, about 80 percent were women.

Patricia Flor of Germany, the newly-elected chair, said there were four critical areas of concern which the Commission on the Status of Women would discuss at its current session through Friday: human rights of women, the girl child, violence against women and women in armed conflict.

These same areas were the most contentious issues at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, she said. “The Commission should be united in its ultimate goal, which was a just society for all women and men on the basis of equality and non- discrimination,” Flor said.

Speaking on behalf of the 132 developing countries of the Group of 77, Rini Soerojo of Indonesia told the Commission that the full and effective enjoyment of human rights by women could never be achieved in the absence of sustainable economic growth and supportive social and international order.

She stressed the importance of the adoption of pro-active policies and of mainstreaming into the U.N. system a gender perspective in all policies and programmes geared towards the realisation of economic and social rights.

“Each country, reflecting its culture, traditions and values, should adopt legislation to protect the rights of women and girls and offer them opportunities in society,” she said.

Rita Reddy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that of the world's estimated 2.7 million refugees and war- affected people, the vast majority were women and children. The UNHCR mandate promoted and protected the human rights of refugee women, through asylum procedures, durable solutions in the form of repatriation, resettlement and local integration.

“It sought to secure (for women) worldwide recognition and enforcement of the fundamental principles of the right to life, liberty and security,” Reddy said.

Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told delegates that it was “a sad fact” that women continue to be denied their economic and social rights and continue tomake up the majority of the world's poor and illiterate.

Of the 1.3 billion people, about 70 percent are women.The increasing poverty among women has been directly linked to their unequal situation in the labour market, their treatment under social welfare systems, and their status and power in the family, she said.

Robinson also said that women, worldwide, work more hours than men and most of their work remains unpaid, unrecognised and undervalued. “The feminisation of poverty must be encountered with more resources or the reallocation of resources for programmes targetting women and girls: a move towards a feminisation of budgets is called for,” she added.

Janne Haaland Matlary of Norway said that women as a group were often denied the rights to own property or have access to credit.

Female heirs also received less inheritance than male heirs, thus many girls and women were denied their rights in society from the outset. They might not be aware of their rights due to a lack of information of illiteracy, she said.

Matlary said that research had shown that investing in women's education was the single factor that yielded the highest social return. “Education gave improved income opportunities and promoted women's participation in the political process,” she said.