Despite promises from Western policymakers that capitalist globalization will eventually improve the economic welfare of all nations, in actuality the process has resulted so far in the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many. One decidedly negative trend is that globalization has created a new international working class—a female proletariat consigned to the lowest-paid and least-secure jobs with the worst working conditions. From the maquiladoras in Mexico to assembly plants and export processing zones in Central America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Rim, to subcontractors and garment sweatshops in major cities and in nations on the periphery, it is women’s labor that guarantees maximum profitability for the corporate elite, a tiny minority of the world’s inhabitants.
This collection of revealing articles shows the reality of globalization as it is experienced by women workers at the bottom of society throughout the world. The contributors examine migrant domestic labor in the European Union, Malaysian women working in both industrial and service sectors, the relationship between domestic welfare reform in “First World” nations and structural adjustment as imposed on indebted nations of the “Third World,” the dramatically altered labor relations among men and women in Mexico as the result of NAFTA, labor conditions in Filipino sweatshops and for overseas contract workers (mainly women), the practice of female circumcision in the Sudan, the mail-order bride industry in Taiwan, the international trade in women as “sex workers,” and many other topics. An underlying theme shared by all the contributions is that prevailing feminist theory has failed to recognize the key issues of class, nation, and locality at the heart of the worldwide exploitation of women. It is only through opposition within these areas that women’s collective agency will produce substantial and enduring changes.
This wide-ranging and diverse collection of informative articles is must reading for anyone concerned about the welfare of women worldwide and the deleterious effects of capitalist globalization.