The new international division of labour (NDIL) emerged during the period of post-Fordism where industrialised nations started to 'de-industrialise'. The post-Fordist period has led to an unequal distribution of power, wealth, income and social status. Women, often placed at the loosing end of gender inequalities, are one of the most affected groups under NDIL. This essay will aim to study how and why women are the most affected.
Approximately between 1950 and 1970, the Fordist regime of accumulation or Fordism began to dominate the world economy. According to Cohen and Kennedy (2000:62) Fordism is named after the car maker Hendry Ford which involved the mass production of standardised goods and services by huge companies like his own. Work during this time was repetitive and simple. Workers need only one skill as they only performed one task. Although work was secure for most, workers felt 'alienated'.
Problems with this form of regime emerged during the 1960s and early 1970s. Workers became less productive and efficient causing a drop in quality levels as they became angry and bored with the style of work Bradley et al (2000:34) mentions that working conditions of Fordism led to worker disaffection with adverse conequence for quality control and the alienated, deskilled and bored workers commonly adopted a hostile stance towards their employers. Profit for companies decreased as workers high wages did not match the productivity levels.
Companies also found it harder to sell their products as consumers wanted more choices in goods and services which mass production or Fordism could not offer them. The demise of the Fordism was brought about further by Globalisation and rapid advancement in technology. Post-Fordism started during the mid 1970s and this represented a changing nature of work. During this time, the concept of new international division of labour (NIDL) emerged as a result of increased industrialisation and the 'de-industrialisation' of industrialised nations.
The NIDL as defined by Cohen and Kennedy (2000:136) divides production into different skills and tasks that are spread across regions and countries rather then a single company. Transnational Corporations (TNCs) relocate their labour intensive manufacturing operations to 'developing' countries where labour is abundant and cheap. Louie reports (1998:20) that Levi Strauss & Co shifted half of this production overseas where the best seamstresses earned a tenth of the wages of their US counterparts. Former industrialised nations and the newly industrialised nations are moving towards 'knowledge-based' economies.
To fit into this new form of economy, Latham (1998:80) mentions that the nature of work shifted from a standardised format to a post Fordist model of skill diversity where workers now need to learn a range of adaptable skills and continuously upgrade themselves. Goods were no longer mass produced but produced as and when needed. The future of work is thus as Bradley et al (2000:31) says will be lean and flexible. NIDL is said to affect different groups of people differently but in particular, TNCs will always benefit as they have the power and capital to pull in and out of countries.
NDIL produces gender inequalities. Women in particular can be seen as worse off in this era. Cohen and Kennedy (2000:276) note that the increased entry of women in the labour market is a feature of the global post-Fordist environment. However gender wage gaps and occupational segregation by sex is still evident today. United Nations (1999:17) mentions that occupational segregation by sex is often justified by the fact that women have specific attributes which makes them more suitable then men for particular types of work.
Majority of women in paid employment are school teachers, flight attendants, nurses, clerk, typists, domestic workers or unskilled factory workers. As compared to the jobs that men do, these jobs that women dominate in are considered low skill and therefore command a lower wage. Production departments of manufacturing sectors prefer to hire women as, Cohen and Kennedy (2000:127) mention; women have 'nimble fingers' which makes them suitable for production work. This posted a great problem to women when TNCs under NIDL decided to relocate.
Women in developed countries loose their jobs as production workers to women in developing countries who cost TNCs less money to pay. Louie (1998) reports that when Levis Strauss & Co closed down its largest production plant in San Antonio to shift to Costa Rica, 1150 workers were out of job with 86 per cent female. TNCs thus can either bring in employment or cause unemployment. However, according to United Nations (1999:9), since the late 1980s many mid-middle income countries demand for women in manufacturing has been weakening as export production become more skill-and capital-intensive.
Therefore women's employment in the manufacturing sectors under NIDL may be short-lived as males replace females in this sector. Women in developing countries and especially those from the rural areas suffer from gender inequality much more then women in developed countries. In an attempt to create employment in developing countries, export-processing zones (EPZs) were set up by the government to encourage companies like TNCs to set up their production sectors in those areas. Incentives like cheap labour and tax privileges were promised to the companies.
According to Cohen and Kennedy, (2000:127,128) ninety per cent of labourers in EPZs, again as production workers, are young women aged between sixteen and twenty-two. Women in these zones command lower wages as they are more exploitable and there is generally a large pool to tap on. Kumudhini (1994, as cited in United Nations, 1999:11) notes that women employed in EPZs come from rural areas and have little prior experience with wage employment which makes them the perfect target for employment.
This shows the vulnerability of women and how they can be easily be manipulated by outside forces. However, according to United Nations (1997:10) the shift towards less labour intensive activities in the manufacturing sector noted a decline in women's share of work in the EPZ labour forces. This decline is due to the diversification of export product mix towards higher value added, more technologically demanding product categories and with the increasing capital intensity of production technologies. A lot of work is being done by women in the service sector.
Domestic helpers are often women who come from developing countries like Philippines and Indonesian. These women often leave their homes to work in other countries where they can get better pay for example to Singapore. We can see further gender inequalities here from the fact that money that they earn and send home, may be used to support the education of a male sibling back home. The wage that domestic workers are paid is considered low for the work that they do but it is so because this form of work is considered unskilled.
Enloe (1992) argues that when women do work that reflects women's natural inclinations like housekeeping; they are paid as if they will be paid like they were doing something that took little of no skill. Data entry and information processing is a new job area that women have began to dominate in other then as production workers. According to Enloe (1992) Barbadian women as data entry worker earns $2. 50 an hour compared with the same company's $9. 50 hourly wage for its US-based employee. This again shows how women in developing countries are worse off under the post-fordist regime.
Under NDIL, men continue to earn much more then women. United Nations (1999:14) states that in economies of all types, women typically earn two thirds of male income on average. Probert (1989:90) mentions that Australian women in the workforce are less well paid where the average weekly earnings are only sixty-five per cent of what a men earns and only twenty-six per cent are covered by superannuation compared to over fifty per cent of men. Women are known traditionally to be the non-breadwinners of a family which employers justify as a reason to pay them a lesser wage.
Enloe (1992) argues that a women's labour is cheapened because it is recognised that her money earned is merely to supplement the income of her family and the 'real' wage is brought back by an adult male. Women in the past and today are seen as the homemaker, the child-bearer and the care taker of children. Probert (1989:74) mentions that however much people's attitudes to motherhood have changed, it is still a minority of mother that return to work after child birth which caused broken employment histories.
This posts a hindrance to women's advancement in the working world where they will be less likely then men to be promoted and will not be offered equal pay to a man doing the same job. Under NIDL, women in the manufacturing sectors are loosing their jobs to the males. United Nations mentions (1999:10) it appears that as jobs and wages improve, women tend to be excluded from them. The situation of women may resemble the way it was before where males dominate in employment in domestically oriented industries with strong gender stereotyping of jobs in high-technology, capital-intensive operations.
All these show that men in general are benefiting more then women are in NIDL as they do not face certain discriminations that females have been forced to live. Women will always be considered the fairer sex. In conclusion, NDIL produces gender inequalities, affecting women the most especially those in developing countries and rural areas. Though more women are working under the post-fordist regime, they are still plagued by the fact that they earn less then men and are 'stuck' with certain types of jobs. Therefore globalisation has brought about an unequal distribution of power, wealth, income and social status.