Women's work in multinational electronics factories.

Lim LY
In: Dauber R, Cain ML, eds. Women and technological change in developing countries. Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1981. 181-90. (AAAS Selected Symposium 53)

Offshore sourcing refers to the location by multinational corporations of manufacturing plants in developing countries, producing for export. In the electronics industry automation is possible, but manual assembly using cheap foreign labor is preferred because of the smaller yield losses from manual assembly, and the fact that manual workers can be retrained, whereas automated equipment can becme obsolescent in a few months. Sophisticated technology in design and manufacture is combined with unskilled or semiskilled labor in assembly and finishing operations. By the mid-1970s there were about a million workers employed in the offshore electonics assembly industry in Asia, about 90% women. In Malaysia and Singapore about 50,000 women are employed in the electronics industry in each country. Women are more docile and disciplined in assembly line work than men. They also work for lower wages, a third less than men's, and start at $2 a day. Export oriented industries have unstable employment patterns. Recessions provide a good reason to lay off older and more expensive workers. Multinationals are being encouraged to create more skilled jobs for technicians and machinists, which means more jobs for men, less for women. Although modern factory employment frees young women from some of the conservative strictures in their patriarchal traditional environment, it leads to forms of exploitation in the work environment.

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