The Exploitation Explosion

Background papers prepared for an International Confederation of Free Trade Unions women's conference to be held here this spring indicate that women workers continue to be exploited around the globe.

Women in developing countries are working twice as many hours as men for one tenth of the income. Poor shelter, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, overwork, a short life expectancy and high mother and child mortality are the norm for the poorest of women and their families.

The exploitation of women workers is being magnified, says the ICFTU, as multinational corporations move their plants to countries with the lowest operation costs.

In Canada, as many as 16,000 workers have been laid off by companies now heavily involved in Mexico's deregulated zone. Many Canadian industrial jobs which vanished belonged to women.

While employment for women with these multinationals in the startup countries -- such as Mexico -- appears to allow them to defy traditional constraints and gives them some form of economic independence, the reality is proving to be much different.

The ICFTU says women workers in these areas (such as the Mexican maquilladoras) face rapid job turnover, hazardous working conditions, low wages and run-away plants.

The world women's conference will draw about 350 trade unionists from around the globe to the Skyline Hotel in Ottawa, April 21-26, 1991.

Organizers hope to produce positive guidelines to help women gain full participation in society both economically and politically. But background papers indicate women have a long way to go before achieving those goals.

The documents call the 1980's the “lost decade” in which the situation of working people -- and especially women -- deteriorated all over the world.

Elsewhere, international labour statistics indicate that women's career patterns in industrial countries are resembling those of men. In France, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United States women are no longer withdrawing from the labour market during the peak childbearing years.

Most women in the industrialized countries work full time. However, only Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the U.S. appear to be showing full-time work growing as fast as part-time work.

From CLC Today, March 1991



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