Paying the Price for the Economic Crisis: Women workers in the developing world are paying a heavy price as the global economic crisis unravels their rights, their livelihoods, and their families' welfare - with knock-on effects that could last

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New research by Oxfam International uncovers a hidden aspect of the global economic crisis' its impact on women. Oxfam's research suggests that as supply chains are squeezed by falling global demand, women in export manufacturing, garments and services are often first to be laid off, with employers leaving pay outstanding and evading legal obligations to give notice and pay compensation, with governments often turning a blind eye.The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that the global economic crisis will plunge a further 22 million women into unemployment, make female unemployment higher than male unemployment, and make the ratio of women pushed into insecure jobs this year higher than for men.Failure to act now to protect women and children in poverty from the economic crisis will have a disastrous impact on global development in general, and women's rights, livelihoods, and families.
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  Oxfam International Discussion Paper    www.oxfam.org   Paying the Price for the Economic Crisis Women workers in the developing world are  paying a heavy price as the global economic crisis unravels their rights, their livelihoods, and their families’ welfare – with knock-on effects that could last for generations. Bethan Emmett Oxfam GB  Summary New research by Oxfam International uncovers a hidden aspect of the  global economic crisis – its impact on women workers in developing countries. Preliminary findings from Oxfam’s research with women in  global supply chains shows that the crisis is having a devastating impact on their livelihoods, their rights, and their families. Women are often first to be laid off, with employers leaving pay outstanding and evading legal obligations to give notice and pay compensation, and governments turning a blind eye, with devastating knock-on effects. Last year, women’s wages were putting food on the table and children through school in millions of families. Now, the lives of women who were already suffering  from poor labour conditions have become even more precarious. Failure to act now, to protect the rights of women living in poverty from the economic crisis, will have a disastrous impact on global development in general, and women’s rights, livelihoods, and families in particular.  Disclaimer Oxfam Discussion Papers are written to contribute to public debate and to invite feedback on development and humanitarian policy issues. They are 'work in progress' documents, and do not necessarily constitute final publications or reflect Oxfam policy positions. The views and recommendations expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Oxfam International. Paying the Price for the Economic Crisis , Oxfam International Discussion Paper, March 2009 2  Contents Introduction – women workers: the development engine of the world.............4    Women’s jobs are first to go........................................................................................4   Migrant workers sent home and remittances plunge............................................5   Families eat less, children get pulled from school..................................................6   Rights undermined under pressure to cut costs......................................................7   Fiscal stimulus: only jobs for the boys?....................................................................9   Conclusion....................................................................................................................10   Notes..............................................................................................................................11   Paying the Price for the Economic Crisis , Oxfam International Discussion Paper, March 2009 3  Introduction – women workers: the development engine of the world New research by Oxfam International uncovers a hidden aspect of the global economic crisis – its impact on women. In February 2009, we spoke with women in global supply chains in ten countries across Asia and Latin America about how the crisis is affecting their lives and their families. 1  Their stories are sobering; they reveal the human, female face of a crisis that is too often discussed in terms of economic statistics rather than real lives. 2  Oxfam’s research suggests that global markets are pushing the costs of mistakes made in rich countries onto women and children in poor countries. As supply chains are squeezed by falling global demand, women in export manufacturing are often first to be laid off, with employers leaving pay outstanding and evading legal obligations to give notice and pay compensation, and governments turning a blind eye, with devastating knock-on effects. Last year, women’s wages were putting food on the table and children through school in millions of families. Now, the lives of women who were already vulnerable and exploited have become even more precarious – and with them, the lives of their children. This paper is a snapshot of the gender impact of the crisis in one sector – export manufacturing – but the impact on women is likely to be much wider. As global demand, access to credit, and aid flows fall, developing countries are experiencing declines in growth, export income, and remittances, putting pressure on public spending on health, education, and social safety nets. Women and children will bear the brunt of these cutbacks; in many countries, women are primarily responsible for looking after the family, yet have the least income with which to do so. For example, the World Bank has highlighted that women in 33 countries – almost half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – are highly vulnerable to the effects of the economic crisis, and predicts increases in infant and child mortality, less girl schooling, and reduced earnings. 3  There is an urgent and critical need to monitor the gender impact of the crisis and ensure that governments are responding to the needs of women – both in the labour market and at home. Oxfam International is producing a range of research and materials about how the economic crisis is affecting people living in poverty – available on the Oxfam GB website http://www.oxfam.org.uk/g20.  Women’s jobs are first to go ‘First the company reduced our pay, then we lost our jobs. They have refused to pay us severance or other benefits. Since I lost my job sometimes we eat only once or twice a day. I don’t know what to do, we are just camping in front of the factory gates, waiting for the company to pay us.’ Ms Kry Chamnan, Cambodia ‘About 1,700 people used to work here and all are unemployed now. Many women were pregnant, many are ill and are left with nothing. It’s been three months since the factory closed and we haven’t been paid anything, no severance, no social fund payments.’ Ana Ruth Cerna, El Salvador ‘My factory retrenched 150 workers including me. I’m 35 years of age and I’m too old to  join another factory. I’m in deep trouble, thinking about how to live with my two children.’ Lalitha, Sri Lanka Paying the Price for the Economic Crisis , Oxfam International Discussion Paper, March 2009 4
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