From Tue Jun 6 06:51:45 2000
Date: Sun, 4 Jun 2000 23:03:15 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <>
Subject: DEVELOPMENT: Globalisation Increases Pressure to Work More
Article: 97642
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Globalisation Increases Pressure to Work More

By Mario Osava, IPS, 2 June 2000

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 2 (IPS)—Marcia Rodrigues Carvalho, a teacher who works at two primary schools, acknowledges that she is on the verge of exhaustion, trembles at the end of her 12-hour work day and is taking several medicat ions, including anti-depressives.

She teaches 52 classes each week, which require additional hours for preparation, correcting homework and exams and helping her students. She has been teaching for 11 years, but the need to step up her work intensified in recent years as the family income dwindled.

Her husband, 56, a former human resources manager for large transnational companies, was laid off and had to seek work as a consultan t, which proved sporadic and scarce during the economic slowdown Brazil has suffered since 1998.

At age 48, Rodrigues, for all her effort as a Portuguese teacher, earns the equivalent of 900 dollars a month, and she feels sad, exhausted, dependent on psychiatric medications, and misses the times when her ear nings were not indispensable for the family because her husband had a stable jo b that paid well.

Her story is one example of the effects of globalisation, which, according to the United Nations is widening the income gaps within and between countries.

The gap between the world's richest and poorest has widened, while financial crises in Asia and Latin America have threatened to wipe out years of growth and improvement, according to a recent UN analysis of the process of globalisation.

And a report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, said women are adversely affected. The report comes in advance of the General Assembly Special Session in New York, June 5-9 to review progress over th e past five years to improve the condition of women in the world.

In Brazil, as elsewhere, the march of globalisation is evident in the opening of the market, profound industrial restructuring and the elimination of jobs, greater flexibility in labour relations and an expanding inform al sector.

Globalisation has driven the incorporation of more women into the labour market. In the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo, families with economical ly active women jumped from 42.8 percent of all families in 1981 to 53 perce nt in 1995, according to Eugenia Trancoso Leone, an economist from the Universi ty of Campinas.

Families now depend more on the complementary income of women, a phenomenon especially evident among the poor, said the researcher. In 71. 5 percent of two-parent low-income families studied, both adults worked. Bu t on top of this figure are the families headed by single women, who represent a quarter of all families in Sao Paulo, and the proportion is increasing.

The salary reductions have been brutal throughout Brazil since 1995, pushing women to seek paid work, said Hildete Pereira de Melo, who studie s women's participation in the economy at the Federal University Fluminense de Niteroi, a city neighbouring Rio de Janeiro.

Women are perceived to be the principal victims of the increased precariousness of employment arising from globalisation, with reductions in wages, jobs and labour rights, arising from the intense competition fed by open borders and the predominant role of the market—which demand cutting lab our costs.

But sociologist Cristina Bruschini, a researcher at the Carlos Ch agas Foundation in Sao Paulo, observes that it was male workers who suffered m ost because they were the majority of workers in industry, the sector globalisation hit hardest in Brazil.

Women had already become the majority in the service and informal sectors. At least a third of women workers are still in precarious nich es, like domestic work, which is poorly paid at subsistence levels, but tha t proportion is beginning to fall, she said.

In other words, women lost less in the first stages of globalisation, concludes Bruschini, but they suffer the indirect effects, such as having to work more hours to maintain the family income, like teacher Marcia Rodrigues, or face more competition for jobs as industry layoffs continue.

Women have a higher unemployment rate then men, despite the fact that most new jobs are in sectors traditionally considered women's work, i n services, pointed out Ednalva Bezerra de Lima, co-ordinator of the Nation al Women's Commission of the Brazilian Unified Workers' Central (CUT).

Changes in labour legislation have hurt workers because they do n ot take into account the different needs of certain sectors of the workforce, add ed the unionist. Delayed retirement measures, for example, ignore the double wor kload of most women, who continue to be responsible for most household chores.

According to the CUT researcher, the portion of economically acti ve women grew from 35 percent in 1993 to 41.7 percent in 1999.

But in addition to the economic changes, cultural and demographic shifts contributed to this increase, pointed out sociologist Bruschini. Decreasi ng birth rates have given women greater freedom to work outside the home, wh ile expanding divorce rates, for example, have meant that women must seek the ir own incomes.

The end of prejudices against women in the workforce, the deterioration of public services, the diversification of consumption—such as spending more for private schools, cellular phones, videos—are factors that have driv en the need for women to contribute financially to the family economy.

This is evident in the ageing of the female workforce since the 1 980s, observed Bruschini, as women enter or return to work after raising their children.

Women can also improve their lot through more education, and they surpassed men in this area in the 1990s, said the sociologist. In additio n, their greater presence in the economy and the media is a boost in the fig ht against gender inequalities.

For Pereira de Melo, the key lies in establishing child- care cent res, which requires action by the government, whether at the local or national level. Poor women do not have anywhere to leave their children while th ey work, and many of them are single mothers, which puts them at a major disadvantage if they are to enter the labour force.

Women in the middle-income and wealthy sectors of the population have domestic employees, an army of five million in Brazil, to take care o f their children—or they are able to pay for private childcare, she added.

It is through expanded organising in unions, political parties, community centres and other movements that women will be able to fight the discrimination, inequality and oppression of patriarchal society they continue to suffer, commented Bezerra de Lima, a former teacher from the poor state of Paraiba in northeastern Brazil, who is now in the leadership of the nation's largest union.