Labour and Work

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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.

View the video below to watch Marilyn Waring speak about women’s work and the importance of assigning value to it

View the video below to watch Christa Wichterich explain the concept of the Care Economy and the significance of care work undertaken by women

Related Resources

1. In Latin America, Closing the Gender Gap Brings Fresh Challenges, IPS, October 26, 2011

2. Bearing the Brunt Leading the Response: Women and the Global Economic Crisis, TUC, March 2011

3. Export Processing Zones

4. ILO Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, 2011

5. Underpaid and Overworked: A cross-national perspective on care workers, International Labor Review, 2010

6. Global Employment Trends for Youth,ILO, October 2011

7. EU: Time to speak out about the silent crisis – years of work on equal pay and gender equality under threat

8. Brazilian “Daisies” Press Rights of Rural and Forest Labor, WomensENews, September 4, 2011

9. Mexican Fisherwomen Organize Against Climate Change, IPS, August 24, 2011

10. Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development, FAO

11. Namibia: Women Keen to Ease Greenhouse Effect on their Ability to Provide, IPS, July 4, 2011

12. Manual Scavengers in India, ILO

13. VIDEO: Feminist views of the economic crisis and the care economy, Brigitte Young, Munster University

14. Podcast: From Global Economic Crisis to Care Economy Crisis

15. VIDEO: Invisibles, Part 2, Six out of Ten, Sexual abuse of migrant workers from Honduras and Mexico

16. Valuing and Validating Non-Paid Work

17. Decent Work, Decent Life for Women: ITUC Campaign

18. A podcast interview with Feminist economist Nancy Folbre on the Cost of Care

19. An essay about fertility, care work and economic policy

20. Central Asian Women’s Shattered ‘Russian Dreams’

21. Join London protest against Nike’s exploitation of Bangladeshi women workers

22. 3 Ways Women Workers are Fighting Discrimination, Wage Theft, and Abuse on the Job

23. Economic Policies Must Consider Unpaid Work of Women


Related AWID Publications

  1. Women’s work exposed: New trends and their implications

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