Just Sociology

Breaking the Chain: Exposing the Exploitation of Women in Global Supply Chains

The role of women in the global supply chain has increasingly become a subject of academic research over the past few decades. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), women make up almost half of the global workforce, yet they remain overrepresented in low-paid and insecure jobs that are hazardous and physically demanding.

The exploitation of women in the global supply chain is a blatant violation of human rights and a form of gender-based violence. This article will explore some of the key issues surrounding the exploitation of women in the global supply chain, using case studies from developing countries in the garment industry.

TNCs Exploit Patriarchal Values

Transnational corporations (TNCs) often exploit patriarchal values prevalent in developing countries to perpetuate the exploitation of women in the global supply chain. Employers take advantage of patriarchal values to pay women lower wages than their male counterparts and exclude them from leadership positions.

Patriarchal societies not only promote gender discrimination but foster unequal power dynamics that reinforce gender-based violence.

Women’s Material Subordination

In the global supply chain, women’s subordination is material, as seen in the garment industry.

According to the ILO, women dominate the garment industry, making up around 80% of the labor force. However, they only hold 10% of managerial positions in the industry.

The material subordination of women in the garment industry is perpetuated by wage discrimination, lack of job security, and poor working conditions. Women in the garment industry are paid low wages and face long working hours, which leaves them with little bargaining power against their employers.

Lowest Earning, Least Secure, and Most Dangerous Jobs

In times of economic downturn, the situation for women in developing countries gets worse. In an attempt to cut costs, transnational corporations outsource to developing countries where labor is cheap, and labor laws are weakly enforced or nonexistent.

This often leaves women in developing countries with the lowest paying, least secure, and most dangerous jobs in the supply chain. These jobs often involve hazardous work conditions, including exposure to chemicals, fumes, and dangerous machinery.

Women workers are even more exposed to these hazards because of their placement in the lower ranks of the supply chain.

Bangladesh Factory Collapse

The Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in April 2013, highlights the extreme forms of exploitation and abuse women workers face in the garment industry. The factory was host to multiple garments factories and several shops.

Many women working in the garment factories in Rana Plaza were from rural areas where employment opportunities are scarce. In these areas, women often work long hours in exchange for meager wages to support their extended families.

Women who worked at the factory spoke of pervasive harassment from their employers, including physical abuse and sexual exploitation. Rana Plaza was one of many garment factories in Asia that offered little or no safety features to protect its workers.

The Bangladesh factory’s collapse was a catastrophic event that claimed the lives of over 1,000 people, most of them women.

Exploitation of Women in Guatemala

Exploitation of women in the supply chain is not limited to developing countries. Women who work in the textile factory sector, as well as in the domestic service in Guatemala, face exploitation and abuse.

Women who work in Guatemala’s factories earn less than the minimum wage, work longer hours than permitted by law without adequate leave time, health care, or privacy protections. Many women working in the textile industry in Guatemala have reported physical abuse, including beatings, and sexual exploitation by their employers.

U.S.-Based Companies Honor Contracts Despite Abuse of Women Labourers

U.S-based companies are often implicated in the exploitation of women in the global supply chain. Companies like Target, The Limited, Wal-Mart, GEAR for Sports, Liz Claiborne, and Lee Jeans have been accused of using Guatemalan factories that violate worker’s rights.

Many of these factories exploit women workers who are unable to access legal protections or legal recourse. Despite the exploitation of women, the U.S. based companies honor their contractual obligations to these factories, perpetuating the vicious cycle of exploitation and abuse women workers in the global supply chain.

Conclusion

The exploitation of women in the global supply chain is a systemic and pervasive problem. Patriarchal values, material subordination, poor working conditions, and lax labor laws and are a few of the many factors that perpetuate the exploitation of women in the supply chain.

International organizations and national governments need to address gender-based violence in the supply chain to provide safe and secure working conditions for women. The world needs to create a fair and just global economy that respects and protects women’s labor rights.

In conclusion, the exploitation of women in the global supply chain remains a significant human rights issue. The systemic and pervasive nature of the problem requires urgent action by international organizations and national governments to address gender-based violence in the supply chain and provide safe and secure working conditions for women.

By creating a fair and just global economy that respects and protects women’s labor rights, we can work toward a more equitable future for women in the workforce.

FAQs:

Q: What is the global supply chain, and why is women’s exploitation a concern for it?

A: The global supply chain refers to the interconnected network of businesses and manufacturers involved in the production and distribution of goods and services worldwide. Women are overrepresented in low-paid and insecure jobs in the supply chain, making them more susceptible to exploitation and abuse.

Q: How do transnational corporations exploit women in the supply chain?

A: Transnational corporations often take advantage of patriarchal values and pay women lower wages than their male counterparts, exclude women from leadership positions, and exploit women’s lack of job security.

Q: What are some of the key issues facing women workers in the garment industry?

A: Women in the garment industry often face low wages, long working hours, poor working conditions, and a lack of job security.

Q: What was the impact of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh?

A: The collapse claimed the lives of over 1,000 people, most of them women, and highlighted the extreme forms of exploitation and abuse women workers face in the garment industry.

Q: How are US-based companies involved in the exploitation of women in the global supply chain?

A: US-based companies have been accused of using factories in developing countries that violate workers’ rights, including the exploitation of women workers who are unable to access legal protections or legal recourse.

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