ON WOMEN AND ECONOMICS Feminization of the Labor Force: Paradoxes and Promises Edited by Jane Jenson, Elisabeth Hagen and Ceallaigh Reddy New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. 295 pp., $14.95 In the period following World War II and especially since the 1960s, female participation in the labor force of Western industrialized countries has increased dramatically. Feminization of the Labor Force focuses on this development and analyzes women' s changing role in the labor forces of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, West Germany, Italy and Sweden. The authors examine the effects of different national policies on women, presenting statistical comparisons of women' s labor force participation rates. In most Western industrialized countries, they conclude, women continue to participate in the labor force at rates well below men, but their participation rates are rapidly rising--even through recessionary periods--while men's labor force participation rates have declined slowly. The increase, however, has not meant that women take the same jobs and positions as men. For example, women make up the overwhelming majority of part-time workers. Many women take such positions because they are unable to find full-time jobs and throughout the Western industrialized world, women generally continue to be segregated in a few economic sectors, particularly services and communications. The picture of women's labor force experience is not uniform, however. Little part-time work exists in Italy, for example, in large part because protective legislation provides blanket coverage to part-time as well as full-time workers. Women in Sweden have generally done better than their counterparts in other countries because Sweden's strong labor movement has made women's advancement a priority. Even in Sweden, though, when there is conflict, women's needs have been subordinated to those of the labor movement overall. But despite women's increasing labor force participation rates and certain legislative gains, Feminization of the Labor Force makes clear that "there is not much to cheer about" for women in the work force. Conservative governments in many of the countries discussed have gutted social programs which benefitted women; corporate managers are using new technologies to tighten their control over the workforce, severely limiting working women's flexibility; and widespread concern with international competitiveness is overriding longstanding national concerns with the structural changes necessary to fully and equally incorporate women into the work force. Still, the authors argue, the current period is one of great flux, with potential for the extension of women's rights, even if that potential is not yet being realized. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ [] MULTINATIONAL MONITOR September 1989 VOLUME 10, NUMBER 9, SEPTEMBER 1989 Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labor Maria Mies London: Zed Books, 1986. 251 pp., $12.50 In Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, Maria Mies offers a theory on women's status in the world economy. The unequal sexual division of labor, she argues, originated with a predatory mode of production, as man-the-hunter subordinated women by violent means. Male control of the means of violence and coercion has remained at the root of all subsequent modes of production. "Man-the-hunter is basically a parasite, not a producer," Mies writes. She contends that without the exploitation of non-wage workers, capitalism would not work. Mies holds that women currently have a dual role in the world economy. Women in the Third World are crucial as producers and middle-class women in the industrialized nations who are not part of the wage labor force are vital to the economy as consumers. In her conclusion, Mies envisions a world economy which forswears coercive economic relations and is guided by the principle of self-sufficiency. Third World countries should pursue autarkic strategies of development, abandoning export- oriented development plans. Women in industrialized nations must also create autonomous models of production, Mies writes. But, as a first step, they should assert themselves in the consumption process. Participants in a consumer liberation movement would, for example, refuse to purchase luxury items, items produced by exploiting Third World workers or goods which reinforce sexist images of women. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ [] MULTINATIONAL MONITOR September 1989 VOLUME 10, NUMBER 9, SEPTEMBER 1989 Sisterhood & Solidarity: Feminism and Labor in Modern Times. Diane Balser Boston: South End Press, 1987. 247 pp., $9.00 Sisterhood &Solidarity is more than just a history of women in the labor movement. According to Diane Balser, the focus of the book "is the attainment of economic power and its relationship to political power." In recent years, more attention has been paid to women's economic status but the emphasis has been primarily on their economic plight rather than their potential economic power, Balser writes. Women's segregation in the wage- labor force (in clerical positions and in service industries) offers a unique opportunity to organize women as workers and enable them to realize their potential economic power. In Sisterhood and Solidarity, Balser discusses the different ways in which women have been organized around gender and work and offers concrete conclusions about which methods have been successful in the past and what strategies are needed for the future. Underlying tensions and open conflict have traditionally characterized the relationship between women's organizations and the labor movement in the United States. The conflict, a result of both the anti-union elitism of many women's organizations and the sexism of many unions, has undermined the unionization of working women. Women workers remain significantly less organized than their male counterparts. To explore the possibilities for resolving the differences between women's groups and labor unions, Balser traces the history of three working women's organizations. The Working Women's Association of 1868 was founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Frustrated by an antagonistic, male-dominated labor movement, the Association quickly abandoned its focus on working women and subsequently lost its effectiveness. Union WAGE (Union Women's Alliance to Gain Equality), a California organization, was formed in 1971. Successful in extending protective legislation designed for women to male workers as well, Union WAGE disbanded in 1982, the victim of underfinancing and internal fighting. The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), with 18,000 members as of 1986, stands as the largest organization of working women in the history of the United States. Made up of women unionists (it is closed to unorganized women), CLUW has been successful in raising feminist issues within the labor movement and in fomenting an alliance between labor and the women's movement. As an association rather than a union, however, it is not able to organize working women into unions. Balser concludes that unionizing women is the key to the attainment of political and economic power for women, but she does not believe that the women's movement should be subsumed by organized labor. She writes that it is only by maintaining "a parallel, independent women's base that [feminist and working women's organizations] will keep the feminist vision clear and will provide the external pressure necessary to motivate labor's organizing of unorganized women." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ [] MULTINATIONAL MONITOR September 1989 VOLUME 10, NUMBER 9, SEPTEMBER 1989 Women, Men, and the International Division of Labor, Edited by June Nash & Maria Patricia Fernandez-Kelly Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983. 463 pp., $14.95 Since the mid-1960s, Third World countries have increasingly concentrated on export-oriented development strategies and on exporting manufactured goods rather than primary commodities such as agricultural products and unrefined minerals. This collection of essays traces the rise of the globally-integrated manufacturing process by presenting case studies of local work experiences and examining global manufacturing operations on a broader, conceptual level. The book pays special attention to the electronics industry, which it identifies as particularly dependent on overseas production, Mexican maquiladoras (areas designated to house low wage assembly plants for foreign companies) and patterns of labor migration. The authors are mostly academicians whose research deals with gender-related inequalities in the labor force. Their essays address dilemmas which the global manufacturing process poses for women in particular. For example, for many Third World women, jobs with multinational companies may be economically the best employment opportunities available. The book's largely anthropological perspective focuses on women's home experience as an important component of their work situations. By insisting that family relations must be incorporated into an understanding of discrimination, the authors show the contradiction facing women. While many are forced to enter the wage-labor force to provide for their families, the ideology of men serving as a family's breadwinner functions to justify underpaying women. Each essay also offers some perspective on the ways that changes in the international division of labor are affecting workers, particularly women, in industrialized countries and the Third World. The studies highlight the inequalities and imbalances that have grown more acute as a result of the new international division of labor and they expose the role corporations have played in constructing, supporting and encouraging such changes. -Compiled by Robert Weissman .