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Impact of Globalization on Women

Swami Vivekananda had said “That country and that nation which doesn’t respect women will never become great now and nor will ever in future” and in pursuit of making India a great nation, let us work towards giving women their much deserved status.

In this 21st century, globalization is leading towards development. Globalization, women and justice is becoming an interesting subject to study and discuss but sensitization about these issues, especially the impact of globalization on women, which lead to higher level of injustice to women is almost ignored. It has its own negative impact, especially towards poor and underprivileged citizen of the country. More than half of India’s poor are women, and the impact of globalization towards them is severe.

Roland Robertson defines globalization as a “compression of the world” due to increased global (international/interregional) interdependence. As far as the labour force is concerned, it is becoming more fragmented into irregular, temporary and subcontract workers, informal workers and home-based workers, with the globalization of capital and flexible employment. Thus, globalization brings the feminization of labour, especially as cheap labour because it is accepted that women are less demanding, obedient and respectful towards their authority.

Globalization has transformed the structure and concept of labour by informalizing as regular, full time wage labour, contract labour, casual labour, part time labour, homework, etc. but all this kind of workforce falls beyond the protection of labour laws. The era of globalization is a process of restructuring of an international sexual division of labour in which third world women serve both as producers of surplus value of cheap manufacture and as objects of (sexual) consumption (through prostitution) for First World men.

It is widely believed that globalization widens up the opportunities for women in different sectors but in true sense they rarely stand in the modernization of their economies. On the contrary, as their economies develop, new burdens are added upon them. They suffer with inequalities and indignity. As the pace of globalization is spreading fast, industry grows up and men migrate to the cities leaving women behind by leaving the entire burden on the shoulder of women including agriculture, household and social needs. By this bounded responsibilities, it is becoming difficult to carry on their traditional sectors and unable to represent themselves as “productive labour”. Thus, finally circumstances make her fall into the work as wage-less family labour. As the process of expansion of capitalism and globalization continued, capital proved-blind and the cheap, efficient labour of women was found to be preferable to that of men. Structural adjustment generated the triple burden for women and globalization has reinforced its consequences. Women have become an integral part of this liberalized labour market, but simultaneously been marginalized within it, as they have to develop strategies for dealing with conflicting demands of fragmented insecure work, domesticity and community participation. The proportion of women in higher status is one of the key indicators of level of equality between men and women of a society. How women are employed also has important implications for organizational performance and for national economic growth. After looking at the employment hierarchical structure, we find lack of women in the higher rungs. Different scholars give different views, as some describe the reason as due to lack of qualified women, which may be due to societal steering mechanisms. And some others have attributed the underrepresentation of women to demand-side factors, such as women’s experience at work, particularly discrimination. Lack of women participation as managers or professional is a neglected aspect of labour participation in emerging economies. So, it is becoming an important issue to study the low level of women in the higher rungs of employment in general, and Indian women in particular as one of the countries where maximum numbers of work force is women.

It is agreed that due to globalization, world income is increasing and every third countries is progressing. But when we consider its impact on women, we find different picture. Scholars give different views regarding the impact of globalization on women. We can categorize them into three groups. First, some scholars agree that women are benefited from globalization with the increase of world economy. Second, some scholars claimed, over its history, socio-economic status of women and women workforce; we can assume that Indian women come under the third category, that women are negatively affected by globalization, when we examine the situation of India.

According to the UN data, when compared with men, women are diverse group and overwhelmingly disadvantaged economically. Almost all the recent research studies conclude that majority of the world’s women earn significantly less than men. After looking at the booming of economy of Asia including India, it is almost neglected to study its negative impact on people especially on women, who suffer the most in the whole process. Therefore, it is becoming an important field to study and find the solution to improve the situation to bring progress and prosperity in the society. During the era of globalization, the study of women’s workforce becomes an important area of study. Some of the important reasons are mentioned below:

1) Despite representing more than half of the work force, why are women in economically vulnerable condition?

2) Women are getting less than men for the same work. Why do majority of the countries neglect the ILO’s charters, especially equal pay for equal work?

3) Women are put into vulnerable situations and marginalized in every field by various discriminatory policies, practices and laws which are brought by globalization.

4) Slow implementation of the women’s positive gains and their issues especially in the field of economy to promote the world economy in the era of globalization.

5) Women’s political, social and economic rights are an integral and inseparable part of their human rights. But most countries still do not consider women’s rights seriously which mentioned in CEDAW, especially those relating to economic rights.

Thus, globalization offers a particularly rich context in which to analyze and assess its impact on women workforce in general and the Indian women in particular, at the millennium.

In Case of India

Data assessing the impact of globalization which is unfair and unjust on women remains unavailable. The lack of data on women reflects the widespread invisibility of women’s work, as well as state apathy. It was only because of the journalist, NGOs and activist groups that people are becoming aware of the impact of globalization on women and their economic role in the development process of the country like India. In order to solve the above mentioned problems and to improve the status of women especially in economic field, we need to go deep down into the issues of women and analyze the socio-political, economic conditions of India under which women are sustaining their life and work.

The study of women’s work force in a society involves a complex of multi dimensional thoughts. Women have been marginalized in every walk of life. According to Liberal Feminist, society remains structured in ways that favours men and disfavours women in the competitive race for the goods with which our society rewards us power, prestige and money. They are against the excuses or justification used to keep women in a lesser place. They argue that society should not only compensate for past injustices, but also eliminate socio-economic as well as legal impediments to women’s progress today. This gender parity is clearly reflected in Indian society. To start with, it is clearly a male dominated society. Women are always at a disadvantage in every field. In economic field, their presence is virtually absent at the higher level, where the real power lies. Indian women are getting less pay for the same work than men.

Marxist-Feminism believes an understanding of women oppression not much as the result of the international act of the individual’s, but as the product of the political, social and economic structure associated with capitalism. They argue that women’s subordination is a form of oppression, resulting from the institution of class society and maintained into the present because it serves the interest of capital. The major thrust of the Marxist-Feminism seems to have been towards the abolition of gender distinction in market.

Impact on Women

In the special report on the State of the World’s Women, Mrs. Helvi Sipila, Assistant Secretary-General for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations noted that: “Women and girls who constitute one half of the world’s population and one third of the official labour force, performed nearly two-thirds of work hours, but according to some estimates received only one-tenth of the world’s income and owned less than one-hundredth of world property”. Unfortunately, for women, there are many in the rank and file of the judiciary who consider women as subordinate to men, women as instruments of man’s comfort and pleasure.

Women have been treated differently and unjust to them in many sectors in India. Some of important sectors where they are concerned more are given below and these are the fields where we can make efforts and strategies to improve so that it will bring changes and increase the status of women.

Nutrition and Health

Various factors lead women to bad health. Being responsible as homemakers, carers, nurturers, most of the women are unable to afford to take care of themselves. This problem is added up more by globalization. Anaemia is the most common disease among women. It is caused by a combination of poor nutrition, the burden of excessive childbearing and the heavy labour they perform. Along with anaemia, the problems also come to them like high maternal mortality, a high frequency of spontaneous abortions and premature births, poor breast feeding which affect to child’s health in the long run. In almost all the families of India, women take food only after men, especially the leftovers. This causes the severe problem of malnutrition and under-nutrition, especially for those who are poor. Child rearing is another major cause of the poor health status of women. It has the negative impact to both child and mother and reflected in high rates of maternal and infant mortality, maternal morbidity and lower female expectation of life at birth. In case of women who are the direct victims of globalization (those working in the manufacturing factories) are facing severe problem of health due to lack of proper hygiene, toilet, place to stay, insecurity of job for the pregnant women.


Education is an instrument for liberation and freedom but is far behind the touch of women with 48.3% (2003 estimate) compared with male with 70.2%. In case of India, even the educated women with graduate and post graduate qualifications are unable to stand economically independent. In some cases, it is true that education is valuable only to the extent that it enhances their value in the marriage market. They are bound by the societal duty imposed on them for being a faithful daughter, sister, and wife.

Political Participation (Decision making)

Participation of women in the decision-making bodies whether at home, workplace or community is marginal, never reaching even 25% of the total population of women in India. At the same time, women are seen as the bearers of Indian tradition and culture. Without enabling women to exist as citizens with political and economic power, is it possible for them to safeguard the tradition and culture of this country? The poor political participation of women in India is largely due to the consequence of the fact that the upbringing of girls does not equip them for political roles and responsibilities. The societal construction of image for women as motherhood, dependent and faithful wives, and homemakers makes it difficult for them to turn out actively in the political sphere and represent themselves as responsible citizen of the country. That is why despite representing nearly 50% of the Indian population, less than 10% of the Indian women are present in the Parliament.


Women have been described as “invisible labour force”. The male-female superior-inferior hierarchy along with certain norms, values, practices and beliefs are still prevailing in the employment sector. In other words, a super-ordinate-subordinate hierarchy is established on the basis of sex differences, whereby males represent the outside world and women represents only the household world. Census figure almost ignored and excluded the women who are agricultural labour, those who work in informal sector and traditional works and household unpaid workers.

Impact of Globalization

The above mentioned points are affecting the position of women in the society and make them live in the vulnerable position. A country like India which is bounded by the traditional norms and values, which is highly patriarch in character already put women into the miserable position and the process of globalization adds up spices in it and makes women life hell from every angle, and puts millions of burdens on their shoulders. Instead of providing solution to gender inequality, globalization sharpens the division between the two sexes. The contradictory effects of globalization have been both empowerment and disempowerment for women. Globalization has entrenched gendered hierarchies in the labour force as well as increased the percentages of women living below the poverty line. Globalization is actually welcomed by male leading institutions. New technologies are made for male use, and hence they become skilled labour and women unskilled labour. Thus women have been exploited under the process of globalization. Female labour is thus increasingly integrated into global production, but in a fragmented form with contradictory consequences.

When we look at the condition of the women who are working in the factories, we can see the true colour of globalization. Women are concentrated in the occupations that are particularly monotonous and tedious. They have been discriminated against in matters of appointment and promotion and paid less than men for the same work. Their exploitation is facilitated by the fact that they are poorly organized to assert their rights as employees and as workers. The efforts of bodies like the ILO that reaches out to protect their rights and interests are defeated because the dice in the employment markets of development societies are so heavily loaded in favour of men that regulations and requirements aimed at protecting women are easily neglected. Apart from these disadvantages of industrialization, women are adversely affected by the fact that the value system that industrialization promotes tends to generate new forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. Majority of these women under these occupations have low education and less salary and work in hazardous and unhygienic conditions.

Female employment in global production has become more extensive with the process of globalization but the patriarchal structure within the labour force has not disappeared, but has been transformed through the changing demands of global capital. Thus, women workforce is often insecure, temporary or part-time, with little protection, as we know that these workers are outside the purview of labour laws.

We can also see the impact of globalization in the form of trafficking of women, increasing problem of AIDS and losing the dignity, as women are being used as an object. With the development of technology, we can see and find the aids of easily available women even on Internet, and the symbol of women is actually being used as a means to catch the attention. After looking at all the problems faced by women in workforce, particularly by Indian women in this rapid pace of globalization which loaded more spice on the injustice of women’s life, we need to ask few questions, like:

1) After looking at the Human Development Report of 2003, we can conclude that large number of women participate in labour force, especially manufacturing sectors where cheap labour is in demand and agriculture and unpaid works as well. Here we can make a note that woman workforce is increasing only at the lower level of jobs where power is restricted. The problem here is that women’s labour participation is increasing in every field but why only at the lower rungs of jobs and why do only few women stand in the top positions of the hierarchical structure of the system?

2) As part of the “race to the bottom” to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), some countries, including India have either exempted Export Processing Zones (EPZ) or relaxed existing national labour safeguards vis-à-vis EPZs. Needless to say, such actions are in complete violation of ILO standards encapsulated in the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and rights at work (1998).

3) Globalization, which is patriarchal in character, is standing on the sweat of workers, especially Indian women. But women are getting much more less than what they deserve and less than their counterpart men in terms of wage and benefit for the same work. This issue is almost being ignored by everybody, including governments, academic research and civil society sectors in India.

4) Despite having the large number of women workforce, it is tragic to find data and research work on women workforce. This matter itself becomes an evidence for the apathy on women’s issues in India.

Injustice to Women

There are various reasons of leading injustice to women. Different scholars have different views on this. Some of the major reasons we can deal are:

Patriarchy: It is believed that irrespective of their sex, caste or religious placements, the person who indulge in gender injustice are under the influence of patriarchy (social system in which men dominate). The problem in the patriarchal society is not only on the ground of biological functions but also the misinterpretation of values prescribed to males and females. It is absolutely agreeable that because of our society’s patriarchal nature, women’s status is lower than that of men. When we look into the problems, we can find some other reasons other than this but the character of patriarchy is involved in some or the other way to every reason.

Weak Legal Protection: India, the largest democratic country in the world, prescribed guarantees for the protection of rights and status of the citizens of India irrespective of their social status, caste, class, sex etc. The makers of the Indian Constitution were very realistic in their expectations and that explains the various safeguards that they built into the Constitution to protect the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable groups in society. But there the question is as far as women are concerned, is our legal system justifiable or not? When we look into the Fundamental rights of Indian Constitution and its practice especially on equality in the eye of law irrespective of gender, one obvious question rise up in the mind: “Is our constitution really protecting women in true sense and in what way?” Articles 14 to 18 of Indian Constitution deal with the Right to Equality. Article 14 expressly states that there shall be equal protection of laws and equality before the law. There cannot be a different standard of justice or even denial of justice on the basis of the gender of the complainant. But we can find the practices of injustice on women on this account. Under the Indian Penal Code, it is still a crime when the husband of a woman beats her up, injures or harms her in any way but our judicial system is so weak that they are unable to protect their citizens on the equal foot. Not only for this Article, but this kind of practice is going on for every Article as far as the equality of gender issue is concerned. If our judicial system is functioning in the true sense then it is out of question to decrease the number of women in every census, increase the incidents of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, cheating, etc. not only in numbers but also in intensity and brutality.

Social Upbringing and Cultural Belief: The societal belief and norms of taking food first by male members of the family and by women the leftovers directly or indirectly affects the health of women in the long run. It is a prevalent belief in Indian society that the survival of cultural groups is based on the purity of women, therefore women have to defend their chastity to keep the religious and cultural tradition pure. Under this process, women are being humiliated and tormented. We can see the act of injustice on women in our society in many ways due to our societal and cultural belief on account of inheritance, succession, laws relating to marriage and divorce, guardianship, custody, adoption, etc. We can see the issue of dowry as another important problem to humiliate women. Dowry is a token to share the burden of looking after the daughter. To deal with the problems arising from the practice of giving and receiving dowry, the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in 1961 and amendments were made to it subsequently in 1983. But we still find the increasing number of cases of dowry death.

Physical Weakness: This is one of the hindrances in the development process of women in every society. There are number of issues and works which women are unable to take due to their physical weakness. But there are certain issues where women are sharing the same amount of labour but still getting lower than women. This is simply called injustice to women.


Globalization is draining out resources of the underdeveloped and developing countries in every possible way. In this whole process, the major invisible/indirect victim is the woman. It is a severe problem, especially in a country like India where women are bounded already by so much of practices, as it is highly patriarchal. This process of globalization, which is highly patriarchal in character, is adding up all the more burden on women. The idea of giving more opportunities or privilege, and liberation of women under the process of globalization is just the face value. Therefore, instead of solving the problem of women, this concept is leading them into a more vulnerable position. Manifestations and attempts to transform the stipulation of patriarchy should be initiated in order to bring the changes in the ways of thinking and cultural aspects towards women. Without this effort, the question of bringing justice and development to women would be very difficult.

It is, however, very important to realize that gender justice cannot be secured merely through laws and the legal system. Enacting gender-just laws will not mean an end to the exploitation of and discrimination against women. Using law and legal system can only be one of the many remedies to change the inequality of women. Law is one of the means of empowerment of women. But it is very essential that we realize the limitations of law and not just hope that since we have a Constitution that guarantees equality and various laws to address the different kinds of atrocities against women that women will now be enjoying the status of equality. Society has to be changed; attitudes of people in society have to be altered before equality can become real for women.

If only the Government would use the media more effectively in driving home the message that wives are not the property of husbands to do what they please with them and that women are valued members of the nation, we might see a reduction in the crime of domestic violence.

The legislative framework provided in the Constitution provides for equality in society between men and women. In order to fulfil this constitutional mandate, the Parliament and the Judiciary have, from time to time, made laws and interpreted the existing ones that would guarantee gender justice. However, since law, the legal system and the society are closely interlinked; it is not possible to enforce the rights provided in law without changes in social institutions, values and attitudes. Social change cannot be brought about through law. It is only through the process of sensitizing various branches of the government and more importantly, the members of society to the rights and concerns of women can gender justice become a reality. Law is only one method by which the various problems of women can be resolved. While law can empower women at one level, it is not possible to completely eliminate the subordination of women or the discriminatory practices merely through the legal system.


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