international gender division of labor 2383

government expenditures on social services
and increase production for export, rather than
supporting independent local businesses that
produce for local consumption, in order to earn
more foreign currency to pay back these loans.
An important byproduct of these two factors
TNCs relocating production overseas and struc
tural adjustment programs is that developing
economies are indirectly controlled by transna
tional corporations and/or funding agencies
located in developed nations, thus reinforcing a
new international division of labor.
This international division of labor is pro
foundly gendered in many ways. Mies et al.
(1988) observed there has been an international
trend towards the housewifization of all labor
an interesting term that incorporates several
aspects of the relationship between paid work
and womens unpaid work at home. First, paid
work is becoming increasingly feminized, with
new jobs in the service sector drawing more on
womens than mens labor. Indeed, some of
womens traditional white and pink collar jobs,
such as data entry or telephone call in work, are
now being sent to workers in developing coun
tries, especially to English speaking, former
British colony nations (Freeman 2000).
Second, paid work is increasingly organized
like womens housework, with jobs that require
flexible schedules and are occupationally
segregated. Such flexibilization of the world
economy refers to the growth of part time, tem
porary, or seasonal employment. In developed
countries, this process is most visible in the
growth of the service sector. In developing
economies flexibilization usually refers to the
need for families to have multiple income
sources based on subsistence farming, vending,
or other forms of self employment, and perhaps
some formal paid work.
Third, many of these jobs, like market trad
ing, factory outwork, or off the books childcare,
are found in the informal sector of the global
economy that is rapidly expanding but, like
housework, is not regulated by national labor
laws. Therefore, increasing informalization
of work often accompanies flexibilization.
Fifth, since womens traditional tasks are
stereotyped as unskilled (although they are
not), companies or individual employers can
more easily pay less and provide less job security.
In other words, economic restructuring and
the international division of paid labor created
new jobs that have many of the characteris
tics of womens paid work and unpaid carework
and housework, which is not surprising since
women are the source of new labor in most
countries worldwide.
Recent scholarship by Parren~as (2000),
Hondagneu Sotello and Avila (1997), and others
illustrates that there also is an international divi
sion of reproductive or carework labor. This
occurs when women from developing coun
tries migrate internationally to more developed
ones to perform paid carework for other women,
then use their earnings to hire someone back
home (often a rural to urban migrant or another
family member) to take care of their own
families. Parren~as (2000) argues that this labor
chain, transferring white womens domestic and
reproductive labor to women of color from
developing nations, creates an international sys
tem of racial stratification in reproductive work
and makes temporary overseas contract work
ers into a new export commodity for some
developing countries.
While the international division of labor con
tinues to change forms, one of the constant
features is its gendered and raced nature.

SEE ALSO: Development: Political Economy;
Division of Labor; Divisions of Household
Labor; Feminization of Labor Migration; Glo
bal Economy; Women, Economy and


Freeman, C. (2000) High Tech and High Heels in the
Global Economy: Women, Work, and Pink Color
Identities in the Caribbean. Duke University Press,
Durham, NC.
Hondagneu-Sotello, P. & Avila, E. (1997) Im Here,
But Im There: The Meanings of Latina Trans-
national Motherhood. Gender and Society 11(5):
548 71.
Kamel, R. (1990) The Global Factory: Analysis
and Action for a New Economic Era. Omega
Press/American Friends Service Committee,
Mies, M., Bennholdt-Thomson, V., & von Werlhof, C.
(1988) Women: The Last Colony. Zed Books,