Part 3 - Women in the Workforce
In this third lecture in the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s “Feminist Economics” series, Professor Jayati Ghosh explores women in the formal workforce. Legal, social and cultural constraints mean that female workers often end up clustered in certain occupations. The easy exploitation of women turns these into low-wage jobs as a result. The double burden of household responsibilities hampers women from working extra hours, reducing their earning potential and upward mobility. Women workers are seen as generally available and expendable, and private employers, as well as government, set their expectations around that. Women are often not treated as full formal workers, have less job security, are paid less, to begin with, and face a sharp earnings penalty for motherhood. Women also have the less public infrastructure and lower safety on job sites and commutes. Women in self-employment fare just as poorly, facing legal barriers to the inheritance of assets and relative lack of access to productive credit. Recent schemes such as microfinance have been unable to overcome these obstacles. Despite social and cultural advances in recent years, women workers continue to serve as a reserve army of labor in the modern capitalist economy. This is reinforced by globalization and relocation of production, which maintains women as insecure, low-paid subordinate workers. Capitalism is not blind to gender needs, but rather exploits them and uses them to its own advantage.