Labour and Work
Formal, informal, subsistence, household, community, caring, voluntary, reproductive—women are in a number of these ‘classes’ of work at any one time. Yet a large part of women’s work is rendered invisible and is often either outside of what is officially counted as work or is undervalued and underpaid. Women face barriers to advancement across the economy – from exploitation and unsafe working conditions in agro-industry, garment factories and other sectors, to the ‘glass ceiling’ that blocks advancement to managerial positions within major corporations, to their exclusion from more profitable sectors of informal trade.
Recent years have witnessed important changes in the nature of work in many contexts. At the same time there is a growing recognition of the diverse ways in which women engage in economic relations and their means of livelihood. New technologies are facilitating greater flexibility of labour relations, at times contributing to growing precariousness in women’s working situations. Lack of time and resources and the demands of ‘productive’ work life have contributed to a ‘crisis of care’ in many contexts. Shifting trends in women’s migration are also having a significant impact on work patterns. Barriers to and opportunities for work also vary significantly across women’s diversities, including gender, ability, age, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation.
Transforming economic power to facilitate just, sustainable ways for women to generate a livelihood requires influencing how work is defined and what gets valued. Valuing the care economy takes place through public provisioning of social protection and basic social services. There is much to learn from women organizing in trade unions, sex worker organizations, and domestic and home-based worker organizing, as well as experiences of co-operative economies and the “decent work” agenda.
Marilyn Waring speaks about women’s work and the importance of assigning value to it.
Christa Wichterich explains the concept of the Care Economy and the significance of care work undertaken by women.