WOMEN AT THE "MARGINAL POLE" OF
THE ECONOMY IN LIMA, PERU
Elsa M. Chaney, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science
Bronx, New York 10458
Paper Prepared for the Panel on Informal Labor
Markets, Conference on Women and Development,
Wellesley College, June 4, 1976. Margo Lane
WOMEN AT THE "MARGINAL POLE" OF
THE ECONOMY: WORKING CLASS MOTHERS IN LIMA
This study deals with women workers at the "marginal pole"
of the economy -- domestic servants, street vendors, market sellers
and, for comparison and contrast, factory workers, in Lima, Peru.1
The "polo marginal," a concept elaborated in the work of Peruvian
sociologist Anibal Quijano Obregon, is that sector of the economy
related so precariously to the means of production that it forms a
new strata of persons who apparently may never enjoy stable, produc-
tive employment (Quijano, 1971: 1).
Need we justify a study of women in the workforce? Appar-
ently yes, since either (a) most often any considerations about
women workers are ignored, as analysts lump together female and
male economic activity, not recognizing that women's participation
patterns vary greatly from men's, or (b) considerations about women
workers are footnoted out, because analysts recognize the contradic-
tions but refuse to deal with them -- for example, to face the diffi-
culty of measuring women's participation since so many are unpaid
family workers or are techically "idle," even if they work long
hours in the home producing and reproducing the labor power of those
who are technically "employed."
We believe our working class mothers are a crucial population
to study not only because we in the social sciences know so little
about working women, but also because such research can contribute
to the current reassessment of modernization and labor market theories
as well as to the modification of strategies and policies related to
development in the Third World. Our project looks at many issues
related to what may be a new "subuniverse" of the permanently un-
Quijano's formulations on this subuniverse bear some resem-
blance (in different terminology) to theories about the dual labor
market and the disadvantaged labor force of Doeringer and Piore
(1971: Ch. 8), demonstrating that marginal labor is not a problem
confined to the developing countries. Even the policy implications
(but not the solutions) are interpreted in somewhat similar fashion.
For Doeringer and Piore (p. 167) however, it is not the secondary
labor market itself that constitutes the policy problem (it may even
be functional, they say, for women who are interested in supplement-
ing family income by working on a temporary basis, and for teenagers)
but "(i)t is the permanent and involuntary confinement in the secon-
dary market of workers with major family responsibilities that poses
the problem for public policy."
Of special interest to a political scientist is the fact that
these persons have no control over their fate; they are powerless to
influence any of the vital decisions regulating their lives. This
fact also has important implications for public policy -- if these
persons indeed are not, as we have supposed, transitionalls" on
their way to becoming "moderns," then development theorists have
asked the wrong questions (e.g., how soon and in what manner can
these marginals be integrated into the economy and society?) and
given the wrong answers (through education and training, inculca-
ting achievement motivation and more universalistic norms). Such
an approach puts all the onus on the disadvantaged persons for their
backwardness and insufficient emphasis on the structures of economy
and polity -- as the large literature critical of the "culture of
poverty" thesis makes clear. These and other ideas will be elabora-
ted below (see also Lomnitzt 1975; I was influenced on these ques-
tions by an earlier exposition of her thinking outlined in a talk
in Mexico in 1974).
This study also examines three associated trends of women's
participation in the labor force in Lima, trends noted as general
throughout the developing world by Boserup (1970): there are more
women than men in service and market occupations, defined by Boserup
as traditional; the work force in the small modern sector in develop-
ing countries typically is no more than 5 to 15 percent female, the
jobs in "modern" occupations going almost exclusively to men; male
migrants from the rural areas are quicker to change over from tra-
ditional to modern type occupations (178; 179-80; 184).
Our data confirm Boserup's contentions women, although they
are 27 percent of the economically-active population in Lima (a
high percentage for Latin America), are the most disadvantaged work-
ers, and migrant women are even more disadvantaged as workers than
women who are Lima born. Not only are more women found in
the lowest-paid, lowest-status jobs in the traditional sector (while
men dominate the modern sector with its better salaries, greater job
security, pensions, health benefits and union protection), but they
are more likely to remain there. Some males -- among them signifi-
cant numbers of migrants -- move out of the traditional sector;
any movement of women tends to be lateral, for example, women move
from domestic service to street selling, but rarely from unskilled
jobs like these to factory employment. In other words, while women
in any case are significantly less likely than men to be found in
modern sector occupations, they have almost no access to these jobs
unless they are Lima born. In our study, many fewer obreras or
factory workers were migrants, and those who were had longer years
of residence in Lima (median = 16.3 vs 12 years) and/or more school-
ing (median 5.8 vs 3 years) than the maids.
Patterns of capital-intensive, dependent development are
spawning in the Third World a "subuniverse" of persons who apparent-
ly may never be integrated/into productive work. (This substratum
has spilled over into the advanced industrial nations which now re-
ceive large contingents of foreign contract labor [Western Europe].
or illegal Afro-Caribbean and Hispanic migrants [U.S. eastern sea-
board cities, western and southwestern states].) The complex factors
generating the rising indices of worldwide unemployment and under-
employment have been analyzed by many political economists and need
not detain us for long: capital-intensive production techniques util-
ized not only in manufacturing but in agriculture and mining push
people out of primary production with no possibility of more than a
fraction being absorbed either by the new mechanized agricultural
enterprises or, alternatively, by the modernized urban manufacturing
and service sectors. In Peru, most of the campesinos are small
holders, excluded.from the benefits of the new cooperatives created
by the agrarian reform. The modern sector accounts for two-thirds
of the GNP, but employs only one-third of the labor force.
(Fitzgerald, 1976).5 As a consequence, about 42 percent of the
work force in Peru was un or underemployed in 1975 (Suarez, 1975:
7). As noted by Dos Santos (1969: 75), in Latin America
marginality...is the result of the increasing contradiction
between new investments of a high technological level (and
consequently, low utilization of labor in relation to capital),
introduced by a technology foreign to the national structure,
and of the vegetative population increase, added to the in-
crease of rural-cityward migration accentuated by the crisis
in agriculture. The explanation of the phenomenon in it-
self demonstrates that the process of increasing marginality
is a direct subproduct of development sustained by invest-
ment capital, integrated internationally (translation mine).
Moreover, as Galbraith (1971s 234-35) notes, this low util-
ization of labor is not solely the result of the "technostructure
seeking] technical progressiveness for its own sake." Mechaniza-
tion adds to certainty, he says, because "machines do not go out
on strike." Both supply and cost are more firmly in control of the
firm than is labor. More white collar workers and more members of
the technostructure will be required for mechanization; however,
Galbraith says, white collar workers with few exceptions do not
join unions and they tend to identify themselves with the goals of
the technostructure with which they are fused (p. 235). Unskilled
and unequipped to ascend, surplus labor has not place to go except
to the tertiary sector. This is particularly true for women who,
even if they enter factory production in its first crude, labor-
intensive phases in some countries, are eased out of the most modern
sectors as tools become more sophisticated and the sources of in-
animate power more complex and expensive (for a further discussion
of the relationship of women to the sophisticated and productive
tools of society, see Chaney and Schmink, 1975). This had lead to
the now common observation that modernization benefits
only those middle-class women who have education or
professional training and thus find opportunity because skilled,
trained persons are in demand throughout the developing world,what-
ever their sex.6 (See Safa, 1975a and b for a further discussion.)
In the Third World however, as is also well documented by
now, the rural population has moved directly from agriculture to
the tertiary sector; women there almost never had great entree into
the secondary sector because late developers tend to leap over the
labor-intensive stages of manufacturing. Of course, not all ter-
tiary sector employment is marginal, but as Amin (1974: 61) observes,
only in developed countries does the service sector resemble the
secondary (in terms of productivity, wages, unionization and work-
ing conditions). In countries of the periphery the tertiary sector
has undergone a process of "hypertrophy," becoming swollen and dis-
torted so that the proportion of the work force occupied in ter-
tiary activity is much greater than in the secondary. On the peri-
phery, the tertiary sector contains a much greater number of marginal
occupations than in center countries. Historically, Amin notes
in the developed countries, the movement transferring the
active population from one sector to the other is not lineal;
from 1820 to 1880-90, the transference from agriculture to
the two other sectors was carried out in roughly equal propor-
tions....(t)he participation of each sector in the growth of
the national product was almost parallel, except in the 20th
century the contribution of the tertiary sector to the GNP grew
even more rapidly than the secondary sector's contribution.
In the Third World, on the contrary, the non-agricultural
segment of the work force has gone directly into the tertiary
sector before the secondary, and has done so since the begin-
ning of the process of urban modernization, linked to the inte-
gration of the world capitalist system.....To say it another way,
in the center model, industry as it gets underway, employs more
workers than the artisans it ruins. They also are recruited
from an agriculture in decomposition and from demographic in-
crease. In the periferic model, industry employs less workers
than the number of peasants freed from agriculture and ruined
artisans (Amin, 1974: 61-62; translation mine).
I would add a codicil to the historical analysis of Amin.
In later stages of capitalist development, as Piore (1973 and 1976)
.notes, there is a paradoxical shortage of workers for low level
jobs in advanced capitalist countries. Industrial society, he adds,
always has tended to generate a set of jobs unacceptable to the
native born; these have been filled in the U.S. first by immigrants,
then by black labor from the South, and more lately, by rural Puerto
Ricans (and in the south and southwest by Mexicans). Many de-
veloped countries "solve" this problem by importing contract labor
(or tolerating illegal immigration). Once inside the center coun-
tries, these imported workers greatly resemble the marginal labor
force of developing countries. Indeed, they are one and the same,
and that is why it is important to link this question of migrant
labor to the discussion here. The very persons who have become
"surplus" in their own Third World economic systems have become an
international labor pool, to be transferred like some new kind of
raw material from the hinterland of the international political/
economic system to the metropolitan centers. Not only do the metro-
politan centers continue to draw food and raw materials from the
periphery, but they now also draw laboring hands as needed to perform
the tasks their own citizens no longer are willing to do. Paine
(1974: 21) notes Nickolinakos' contention that "foreign workers con-
stitute the modern reserve army of labor whose presence is essen-
tial for sustained accumulation: their availability has rescued the
capitalist system from crisis."
Immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe who
go to Western and Northern Europe, and immigrants to the U.S. from
the American "colonies" of the Caribbean and South America provide
labor at little cost either to the metropolitan center or to the
employer. Even in the case of factory work, migrant labor is much
more economic at times than the other option: opening a branch of
a multi-national concern within the borders of a Third World country.
In using migrants, the metropolitan economy takes up slack capacity
already in place rather than having to build and equip new plants.
But only a comparative few find work in factories; typically, the
new immigrants take on the residue of low-skilled, low-salaried
jobs that defy automation -- as restaurant workers, day laborers
and construction workers, janitors and custodians, parking lot
attendants, baggage handlers, gypsy cab drivers and, particularly
for the women, domestic service. Moreover, with contract labor or
workers without documents, there is little pressure to pay the
social costs of expanding the labor supply, and imported laboring
hands are far less likely to organize in defense of their own inter-
ests than citizens. Finally, as is well documented by now, immi-
grant labor tends to go home in periods of economic contraction in
center countries. (For an extended discussion of migrant labor in
Western Europe, see Berger, 1975; Paine, 1974; Marshall, 1973. For
the Caribbean and Latin America, see Bryce-Laporte, 1976; Chaney,
1976; Cruz and Castaio, 1976; Dominguez, 1975; Hendricks, 1974.)
In Search of the "Traditional" Labor Market
Whether they work in the center or on the periphery, the
surplus persons we have been discussing above belong to what has
variously been called the informal or casual, secondary, traditional,
or manual labor market (in contrast to the formal, primary, modern,
non-manual sectors). None of these terms appears satisfactory;
moreover, the problem of specifying which persons belong to each
sector is even more difficult than the mere naming of the sector
in the first place. Perhaps this problem is analagous to describ-
ing an urban place; Mangin (1970: xiv) in his book Peasants in
Cities suggests that a city might be identified as "a place that
when you are in it you know, especially if you are downtown."
In the city of Lima, for example, often traditional sector
employment for women is considered to include domestic service,
street vending, market selling and prostitution, while white and
and blue collar workers are considered to belong to the modern sec-
tor (Villalobos de Urrutia, 1975: II-21; Testa-Zappert, 1974: 10-
11). Boserup (1970: 176-79) also analyzes women's occupations in
terms of bazaar (market) and service occupations, and modern occu-
pations. In Lima, the traditional sector by this definition in
cludes (according to the 1972 Census of Population) almost one-half
of all economically-active women: domestic servants (28 percent);
many of the own-account workers (17.9 percent) and a residual cate-
gory which includes prostitutes.7 Obreras total only 9.7 percent and
empleadas, 42.2 percent (factory workers and white collar employees).8
The rough census classifications do not, however, take into
account the fact that in Lima, one blue collar worker may enjoy
stable employment in a unionized factory, working a modern machine,
with a whole range of benefits including social security, free
hospitalization, child care (children under one year of age are
provided a free nursery at the factory) and paid maternity leaves,
while another obrera works intermittently in a small shop, perhaps
in artesania or knitting seaters on a primitive loom and enjoys none
of the social services enumerated above.9 Are both women to be
classified as working in the "modern" sector?
Several labor market theorists have addressed this question.
Browning (3972: 10-12) suggests adopting Economic Commission of
Latin America categories (ECLA, 1957 and ECLA, 1965) which divide
the manufacturing sector into "industry proper" and "handicrafts
and homecrafts" -- or "factory sector" and "artisan sector." While
Browning recognizes that not all artisanal employment is of low
productivity -- some persons in this category of occupation, he says,
are highly skilled and well paid -- still he argues that, on the
whole, productivity is considerably higher in the factory situation.
Along the same lines, Webb (1973:21) points out that techno-
logical dualism (he is writing of Peru, but his distinctions hold
true for most of Latin America) -- the coexistence of a modern sec-
tor of large-scale, capital-intensive firms within a traditional
sector of labor-intensive haciendas, small scale firms and small
farmers, makes any division into traditional or modern sectors im-
possible. His own definitions of urban/traditional, urban/modern
and rural/traditional, rural/modern cut across all sectors; except
for electricity and banking which Webb considers "all modern," he
argues that there are modern and traditional components in all other
economic activities. Here, too, enter considerations of productiv-
ity, rationalization, organization and division of labor which char-
acterize the factory system; their absence identifies the handi-
craft sector. While all these refinements are useful, one still
faces a formidable measuring problem, firm by firm and activity by
activity, to decide which enterprises are factory and which are
artisan. (For an interesting summary of analyses related to tech-
nological dualism, see Stewart, 1974.)
Testa-Zappert (1975:11), writing of women in the work force
in Lima, identifies traditional tasks as those which women typi-
cally perform in the traditional peasant society:
When performed in the urban setting, [these tasks] still have
the same basic requirements, and consequently attract a dis-
tinct group of female participants. These jobs require less
in the way of education and expertise, and are therefore often
the only jobs open to young, poor female migrants to the
Boserup (1973: 174-79), conceptualizing along the same lines,
suggests that there are two steps in the process: women from the
countryside move into bazaar and other service occupations, re-
placing their rural subsistence activities by commercial production
for sale, small scale market trade, and services. (In a second
step, she says, employers recruit not from among recent women
migrants, but from the bazaar or service sector, thus vacating the
less attractive jobs for the new migrants from the agricultural
sector [see also Elizaga, 1974: 529-31; Macisco, 1975: 118 and
Table 7, 131] I would suspect, however, that in most places it
is the migrant woman's daughters who move, if anyone does; see
discussion below, pp. 24-27.
Yet there are some difficulties here, too, in deciding whe-
ther or not a woman belongs in the traditional or modern employment
category, even if what she is doing appears to form a continuum
with women's work in the rural sector. The following two activities
could be classified as an extension of typical rural occupations: a
street seller spreads a few wares, purchased that morning in the
wholesale market, on the ground outside a district market. She goes
home after 12 or 14 hours, having made only a few soles above her
small investment. Discouraged, she does not venture out again for
three days. Inside the market, another woman is in her accustomed
place in a fixed stall, for which she has paid her fees and rent;
her activity is regulated by the municipal authorities. By relative
standards, she makes a good income, and she usually concludes her
day's work by 1 or 2 p.m. Are both these women to be considered in
casual, informal, traditional employment?
Several have suggested that underemployment and subsistence
wages are the characteristics identifying informal or traditional
economic activities. Testa-Zappert's study, building on the work
of Gianella (1970), defines underemployment as working less than 35
hours a week and/or earning less than S/2000 a month (1975 rate of
exchange: S/43.38 = U.S. $1). While a domestic servant in Lima
could earn S/2000 or more (although few do so), it is doubtful that
she would work less than 35 hours a week -- especially at such a
high salary -- since the decree specifying that domestic servants
must be given 8 hours rest in every 24 hours hs been interpreted by
many patrons as a license to demand 16-hour work days. Is a domes-
tic servant who earns more than S/2000 and works 96 hours a week
then in a "modern" occupation?
Recognizing the futility of using hours worked as a measure
for women, Ledn de Leal and Lopez de Rodriguez (1975: 635-73) seek
elsewhere for a measure of traditional/modern: in the level of edu-
cation of the women, building on L6pez' work in two related studies
(Angulo and L6pez de Rodriguez, 1975a and 1975b). But there are some
formidable problems in taking education as the "criterion to split
women into traditional and modern" with the explicit implication
that less-educated women will be found in traditional employment
(probably true for the most part), and that the more-educated will
work in the modern sector (not certain). A recent review of the
participation of women in development in Latin America (U.N. Secre-
tariat, 1976: 23-34) discusses why recent studies have shown that
women's levels and patterns of employment may not be affected by
levels of formal education and training as they are in developed
countries, e.g., the division of labor in developing countries;
class variables; educational systems geared to the "female" market,
leaving women few other options; sex role stereotyping in the media.
In Lima, a division of women into traditional/modern by education
does not allow for trained women who work in traditional employment
either because they choose to do so (e.g., artesania because it is
"de modo" or creative or a genteel way to parttime earnings, or
because they cannot find employment on a level with their educa-
tional preparation. A journalism graduate of the Catholic Univer-
sity in Lima, to give a further example, vends meat in a primitive
market in the city's center because she cannot find work in her
field. Paradoxically, she calculates she can earn more working
less hours as a carnicera than as a journalist. If this were an
isolated case, we could leave it aside; however, indications are
that the educational level of many Lima market women would put
them at least into the lowest group of the "moderns."
All these difficulties of definition and classification of
women's work (and we have not touched upon the formidable problem
not directly connected to the present discussion of conceptualizing
and measuring the value of household labor) lead one to affirm the
and L6pez de Rodriguez'
principal conclusion reached in Leon de Leal/ own study: women's
participation in work outside the home is remarkable hetereogeneous.
Perhaps women's work simply is not classifiable in terms of any of
the criteria so far suggested. Long ago, Eli Ginzberg (1966) com-
plained that the varied career patterns even of educated women --
for example, their "late" start and their tendencies to interrup-
tions -- made it impossible to study their participation patterns
by male standards. "Participation" for women ranges from the tradi-
tional woman whose economic activity is so intermittent that she
scarcely distinguishes it from her domestic tasks, to the highly-
trained professional at the other end of the scale whose work in-
cludes the aspect of personal fulfillment. The first woman feels
little conflict between domestic tasks and "work" since one shades
unconsciously into the other and since, asthe / perceptively note,
the tasks for which she receives remuneration are simply the nor-
mal prolongation of her homemaking responsibilities, a carry-over
from the rural area where women are expected to make an economic
contribution to the household. The professional, on the other hand,
makes a conscious distinction between home and employment, carefully
measuring the opportunity costs of working and not working (Cf.
and L6pez de Rodriguez,
Leon de Leal/1975: 66-67 for a further developing of these and
A possible alternative in identifying the informal labor
market might be to leave aside for the present these attempts to
measure such variables as productivity, rationalization and organi-
zation and capital intensity of the activity, as well as (from the
worker's side) educational and skill levels, hours of work, salary
and level of benefits. The solution may be to turn to some combina-
tion of the Quijano/Doeringer-Piore concepts which place workers in
the primary and secondary labor markets according to their access
and "nearness" to the modern means of production. In Quijano's
view, as stated above, the "polo marginal" is that sector of the
economy whose members simply will never have stable access to the
technologically advanced tools of society. For this reason, they
do not form precisely a "reserve army of labor," as Quijano (1971:
5) points out, since this would imply that they at least potentially
were able to enter the workforce as the economy expanded. A large
part of this strata is a new permanent phenomenon, "surplus people"
ofskill levels so low and numbers so large that, as Quijano notes,
they form a sector that "is losing all possibility of access to
economic roles that characterize the dominant modes of the organiza-
tion of economic activity," and, in consequence, "are going
to lose also any possibility of an organized and stable relation
with the basic means of production"(Quijano, 1971: 1).
These are the people whom many of us have called "marginals," a
term which need not necessarily be discarded if we understand that
marginalization is produced by and intimately linked to the domi-
nant economic system. In our own study, we concentrate on women
marginal to the urban economic system in Peru, but it is important
to recognize that there is also a rural subuniverse, that is, rural
unemployed and underemployed who are marginal to the dominant
system in agriculture in the same way as their city counterparts,
that is, because of their precarious relation to the modern agri-
culture technology in the countryside.
As a matter of fact, Quijano says (.1971: 5), there is a
parallel subuniverse of employment that is growing alongside all
the modern sectors. This paradox of a "new" strata of traditional
economic activity is present in all three sectors of the economy,
he notes, a parallel development to the visible, scientific-techno-
logical system at the top. The artisan is not disappearing, nor
is the small comerciante. Rather, a whole other level of activities--
desperate people inventing jobs in the interstices of the dominant
economy in order to stay alive -- is growing and expanding.
The important part of Quijano's vision is that these persons
form a strata which must now be viewed as a permanent level of
economic activity. As he notes such activities have always ex-
isted, but it is only at the present time in Latin America that
they are tending not to disappear as conventional economic theory
predicted, but to expand and to differentiate themselves as a
totally separate level or strata: not a relic of the past, but a
new sector produced paradoxically by the present patterns of econo-
mic development and the modern economic structures. This sector
is intimately connected to the dominant economic system and pro-
foundly affected by it -- hence the idea of a "polo marginal" has
the advantage of expressing the margination of the workers without
implying that they occupy a labor market completely separated and
isolated and discontinuous from the dominant forms of economic
Doeringer and Piore (1971: 1-7) perform the important task
of specifying more exactly than Quijano does the nature of the re-
lationship between the secondary and primary labor markets.
In a capitalist
system, competition for jobs in the primary labor market, by and
large, is carefully controlled by internal labor markets, that is,
by the large, modern administrative units of the manufacturing
establishments, the agri-business complexes and the craft unions.
These units carefully maintain boundaries around the enterprises.
Within each of these internal labor markets, lines of progression
and job classifications are carefully regulated, and promotion is
generally from within. So far as recruitment is concerned, the in-
ternal labor markets are related to the external only at certain
points, typically at the lowest job classifications which act as
"ports of entry," the only way in to the sheltered, protected,
secure employment using advanced technology. Even in highly indus-
trialized countries, however, there are jobs which are not
contained within well-defined administrative units of any factory
or craft. Doeringer and Piore (1971: 4) identify the market for
migrant labor in California as the paradigm for the United States;
in a later conversation, Piore (1976) talked extensively of the
Caribbean migrant to the U.S. as also typical. The external market
includes a range of low-wage, marginal enterprises, and a set of
casual, unstructured work opportunities where workers with employ-
ment disadvantages tend to find work. These workers do not have
access to jobs in the internal, protected labor markets in any
freely competitive way; they form a "queue" in which they line up,
figuratively, according to skill level, productivity and reliabili-
ty. Those at the rear of the queue never make it to any port of
entry for stable, permanent employment. A key difference between
developed and developing countries would be how many persons are
lined up beyond the cut-off point in the queue, who therefore never
get close to the productive tools of scientific-technological so-
ciety, whether these are located in the factory, on the farm or in
the service sector (for example, computers, modern communications
technology, sophisticated office machines and the like).
Doeringer and Piore (.1971: 178-79) point out that the pri-
mary and secondary labor markets are interrelated and interact
with each other in complex ways -- mostly in terms of the utility
of secondary employment as the guarantee of flexibility and profi-
tability for the dominant enterprises. The external labor market
is divided into three employment situations, according to these
1. Completely unstructured employment, not related to
any internal market. Such jobs are the "polar opposite"
of those in internal labor markets. Examples: casual
laboring in .construction; domestic work; dishwashing in
2. Employment with some formal structure, but with many
entry ports and characterized by work which is generally
low paying, unpleasant or both. Examples: blue collar
work in foundries, stitching and pressing in apparel
plants, menial jobs in hospitals.
3. Secondary jobs with few possibilities of promotion or
transfer, attached directly to internal labor markets.
Examples: in pulp and paper mills, work in the wood
yard; in machine tool companies, foundry work; in
light manufacturing, temporary packaging lines.
In times of employment expansion, some of these workers get in
line for primary employment; however,
other workers in the secondary sector, the most seriously
disadvantaged, may not be included in the queue for entry
into primary employment at all. If primary employers reach
the end of the queue and refuse to expand employment further
by hiring the most seriously disadvantaged, other instruments
of adjustment to market conditions such as subcontracting,
technological change and the like may be utilized instead
(Doeringer and Piore, 1971: 169).
Even in the metropolitan center, jobs in the external market do
not carry with them job security, promotion opportunities, fringe
benefits -- and often the enforcement of minimum wage rates.
Applying these theories to women in the Lima labor market,
at the every end of the queue we would put beggars, and after
them, domestic servants (a study by Heyman [ 9741 shows that this
is how women themselves rank these occupations, domestic service and
begging coming out 35th and 36th on the list). With low skill
levels, little education, Indian or chola racial identity and (often)
recent migrant status, many women will never move up sufficiently
forward in the queue to stand at the "port of entry" of even the
lowest job classifications in primary employment. Typically they
move laterally, from job to job within domestic service, and
with the birth of a child, make another lateral move to street
vending if their patrona is not willing to keep them on.- A study
by Sagasti (1974) found that about 65 percent of a randomly-selected
sample of street sellers had started out as domestic servants; in
our study, 85 percent had done so. In terms of the "polo marginal,"
these women are located at the farthest distance from the modern
means of production, with scarcely any hope of moving into stable
employment in a factory job or in the service sector. Before turn-
ing to a more detailed examination of women and work in Lima, the
general urban situation will be sketched.
Lima: City of Kings and Migrants
It is important to look at the over-all statistics on Peru
and the participation of women in the work force before developing
further the analysis of women in the subuniverse of employment.
By the mid-1970's, Peru's population had reached 16 million; 60
percent reside in urban places.10 Per capital income is U.S. $710
per year, which positions Peru exactly at the median of the 19
American republics (Argentina is first, with a PCI of $1900; Boli-
via last, with $210).
Peru has a birth rate of 41 per thousand population, contri-
buting to an annual population growth rate of 2.9 percent and fore-
casting if present population trends continue a doubling time of
24 years (Population Reference Bureau, 1976). Between 1961 and
1972, however, Lima's population increased by more than 50 percent
to 3,317,648 persons; about one-quarter of the Peruvian population
lives in metropolitan Lima. As these figures show, Peru -- along
with all countries of Latin America -- has undergone heavy rural
to urban migration in the years since World War II. About 40 per-
cent of Lima's residents are migrants; moreover, survey data from
a CELADE study shows that again, about 40 percent of these were
"voluntary" migrants, i.e., not simply taken along as children to
Lima by their parents (Macisco 1975: 5-6). About 61 percent of
Lima's work force are migrants (Martinez, et al. 168).
Macisco's study also shows, as have many others, that fe-
males outnumber males among migrants, and that migrants in the
younger age groups (15 to 29 years) predominate for both men and
women (38.4 percent and 32 percent respectively). This is precisely
the age from which 80 percent of domestic servants come, according
to census data. There was a tendency (20 percent of all recent
female migrants) for the women migrants to come from towns of under
5,000 population, indicating less opportunity for women in the
smaller urban places; this tendency was not registered for the
males (Macisco, 1975: 18 and 27). In the country as a whole, 20.7
percent of all workers are women; in Lima, 27.3 percent. But
country-wide, only 20.1 percent of women 15 years of age and older
are economically active.
Several investigators estimate that about 60 percent of all
employed migrant females are domestic servants (Chaplin, 1970s 1;
Smith, 1971: 41). Moreover, as Chaplin also notes, because domestic
service has a fairly high turnover rate, the number of women who
have ever worked in this occupation is even higher -- perhaps as
high as 250,000 to 300,000 women.
The four tables on the pages following give essential data
on women in the work force: Table 1 gives an historical glimpse
of women's participation (note that the 1940 census figures must
be interpreted with caution); Table 2 gives the occupations of
females in the work force as percent of all women and of all workers;
Table 3 show sectoral changes in women's participation from 1961
to 1972 and finally, Table 4 gives the servant population for the
three census years.
WOMEN'S WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION
1940, 1961 and 1972
(crude activity rates)
PEA/total in 000's
& % of total pop.
000's/% of all
000's/% of all
3,255 26.9 (64.3)
3,997 17.0 (62.2)
6,754 11.8 (45.2)
Sources: America en Cffras, 1972; Censo Nacional de Poblacion,
1972; Centro de Estudios de Poblacion y Desarrollo,
ICare must be exercised lest the drop in female participation
between 1940 and 1961 be exaggerated: apparently the numbers
in certain categories were over-enumerated in 1940 and under-
enumerated in 1961 because of definitional and other diffi-
culties. For a discussion, see CEPD, 1972: 259-62.
OCCUPATIONS OF WOMEN (AND MEN)
AS PERCENT OF ALL WOMEN AND ALL WORKERS
(15 years and older),
Active females: Peru
Distribution of females (and
17.3 ( .5)
7.9 ( 4.3)
. 65 ( 4.1)
Sources: Censo Nacional de Poblacion, 1972.
WOMEN IN THE WORKFORCE
SECTORAL CHANGES 1961 and 1972
Source: Villalobos de Urrutia, 1975: 1-21. I am unable to
explain the discrepancy in our totals for women in
the workforce, 1972 (see Table 2).
SERVANTS IN PERU AND LIMA
Nati onal/ National
Sources: Smith, 1971: 61-62; CEPD, 1972; Villalobos de Urrutia,
1975: 36; Testa-Zappert, 1975: 49.
These tables show some interesting trends which will be
examined briefly here. Because the first division of labor, as
Engels pointed out, was between men and women, the implications and
consequences of forming part of the "polo marginal" are different
for men and women. On the one hand, one must be careful not to
imply that men of the popular classes in Latin America have access
to job training and stable employment, and are therefore happy and
free, while the women of these same classes are condemned to oppression
and misery. But it still is true that significantly more women are
found in the subuniverse of employment -- and because they generally
are further back in the employment queue than men, their chances of
moving out of the subuniverse are much more limited. Several stu-
dies now document for Lima what we have long argued about women in
the Third World, that is, that urbanization and modernization are
negatively related to the participation of women in productive work
(and consequently, to their general position and status). Heyman
(1974) documents a general deterioration of the position of women
in post-conquest Peru. Suarez'(1975) findings are particularly re-
vealing; in one of the few studies ever done on occupational mobility
in Latin America, she found that while 52.2 percent of migrant
males in her sample whose first occupation.in Lima had been in the
lowest category had moved up in their job classification as measured
by their present occupation, only 12 percent of migrant women experi-
enced occupational mobility between their first and present jobs
(again, it is well to remember that over 60 percent of the Lima
work force are migrants). Our own findings, to be examined more in
detail in the chapters that follow, confirm that women are worse off
than men in the subuniverse of employment for the following reasons:
1. Women are worse off because they tend to cluster in the
lowest echelons of the traditional employment sector --
in domestic service, and in the least-profitable street
vending and market selling. The numbers and proportion
of men in blue collar jobs are increasing somewhat; the
proportion of women in these sectors and their absolute
numbers, in Peru as well as in many other Third World coun-
tries, are decreasing.
2. Women are worse off -- particularly if they are migrants --
because they are locked into the traditional sector.
Women have differential access from the subuniverse of
employment to the modern sector, in comparison to males.
Admittedly, movement towards the ports of entry to modern
occupations is limited -- but some men do move upwards
out of the traditional sector to at lea-T somewhat better
occupations,and the overwhelming majority of women migrants
do not (see Suarez key table, p. 27). Nor do these women
have access to white collar jobs, a sector growing at a very
fast rate. The Testa-Zappert study mentioned above, which
utilized a survey of employees of two Five and Ten Cent-
type stores in Lima, shows that the women white collar em-
ployees come overwhelmingly from the middle class (not true
for the male employees); that they are more highly educated
than the men in comparable white collar jobs, and that they
are overwhelmingly Lima born. Not much chance for migrant
3. Women are worse off because they are expected, by and large,
to engage in economic activity that extrapolates their
motherly, nurturing and service functions within the home
to the marketplace. There is thus a certain image of the
kinds of economic activity proper to the female, and
this stereotyping reenforces the clustering of women in the
lowest-paid, least-skilled jobs within the service sector.
Domestic service, for example, simply is not seen anymore as
a male occupation; the Census of 1972 found that only 10.4
percent of domestic servants were male, with 28 percent of
all economically-active women but only .5 of active men
engaged in this occupation.
4. There are, of course, also structural and institutional
reasons for the concentration of women in the lowest-paid
more precarious forms of employment. Literacy rates for
women and their access to education are consistently lower
than for men in Peru (see Bourque and Warren, n.d., and
Stein, 1975 for a discussion). As many observers have
pointed out by now (see especially Nash, 1975), not only
are women discriminated against in training programs (only
last year were women in Peru admitted to the SENATI program,
a cooperative effort between government and industry to up-
grade factory workers' skills through on-the-job training),
but they are almost never included in agricultural training
courses even in regions where women grow the food crops
if not the extensive export crops -- Western experts go out
with a picture in their heads of agricultural workers as
male, and thus the women are left aside. But women also
are worse off because of advanced social legislation --
they are more expensive to hire, and thus they tend not to
be hired in the internal, protected, stable labor markets.
5. Finally, the fact that women are doubly exploited -- by
the economic system and by the patriarchal system -- makes
those women in the marginal subuniverse worse off. As
Youssef (1974) points out, women are seen first of all in
their roles in the family, and economic participation is
conditioned by this fact. Fidel Castro (1966 s 7 ) also has
addressed the double oppression of working class women; he
noted that they not only suffer economic exploitation at
the hands of all the men and women of other social classes,
but are exploited by the males of their own class as well.
In this sense, we can speak of working class women as the
colonized of the colonized, the oppressed of the oppressed.
Maintenance of patriarchal supremancy is most functional
for the maintenance of the present dependent economic sys-
tems of the Third World; thus, we come full circle to the
beginning of this discussion. Women are "worse off" be-
cause of capital-intensive, dependent development in the
Third World; but the "worse off" women are vital to the
maintenance of the very system which oppresses them.
S9 9 9
JCADRO No 32
MOVILIDAD ENTIRE LA PRIMERA OCUPACION Y LA ACTUAL
Estratos de Estratos de S E X 0
origen en destino en .Total .
la primera la ocupaci6n
ocupaci6n actual Hombres Mujeres
MEs alto 83.3 83.6 82.3
Mas alto Medio alto 7.6 6.4 11.8
Medio bajo 4.2 5.4
Mas bajo 4.9 4.6 5.9
Mas alto 11.6 16.5 3.3
Medio alto 73.5 63.3 91.0
Medio bajo 9,5 13,1 3.3
Mas bajo 5.4 7.1 2.4
MIs alto 2.9 3.1 1.8
Medio alto 9.7 10.3 6.6
Medio bajo 70.7 71.0 69,5
Mgs bajo 16.7 .15.6 22.1
MUs alto 3.5 4.6 6
Medio alto 9.2 12.0 4.7
Ms bajo edio bajo 24.3 35.s 5.7
Mas bajo 63.0 47.8 88.0
Source: Suarez, 1975& 61.
1. "La madre y el trabajo: women in the work force in Lima,
Peru," a research project being carried out by Ximena Bunster
B., Chilean anthropologist; Elsa M. Chaney, North American
political scientist; Hilda Mercado Avalos, Peruvian sociolo-
gist, and Gabriela Villalobos de Urrutia, Peruvian social
psychologist. The project has been funded by grants from the
Social Science Research Council; the NationalInstitute of Child
Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health;
the Interdisciplinary Communications Program, Smithsonian In-
stitution, and the local office of the Ford Foundation, Lima.
2. Who is "employed," "unemployed" or "underemployed" is elusive,
a question tied to time spent at work, intensity of work and
productivity. Edwards (1974), who chaired an international
work group on employment, lists the following forms of under-
utlization of labor: open unemployment (voluntary and involun-
tary); underemployment; visibly active but underutilized,
including disguised underemployment, hidden unemployment (those
working at. alternative jobs because positions in their own
field were not available) and the prematurely retired. Others,
he says, would add the impaired and the unproductive, i.e.,
those who work long hours, yet lack the complementary resources
for commensurate return.
3. Boserup's traditionalsector includes bazaar and service occupa-
tions which comprise own-account workers and family aids in
industry and trade, and all personnel in transport, domestic
and other service occupations; modern occupations include employ-
ees in industry and trade and all personnel in clerical adminis-
trative and professional occupations.
4. Among them, Amin, 1974; B owning, 1972; Cardoso and Reyna, 1969;
Cardoso and Faletto, 1969; Dos Santos, et al., 1969; Edwards,
1974; Frank, 1967 and 1969; Furtado, 1970; Galbraith, 1971;
Gianella, 1970; Gordon, 1972; Hinkelammert, 1970; Martinez, et
al., 1973; Nun, et al., 1967; Ramos, 1970).
5. Fitzgerald also points out that a highly unequal distribution
of income persists; whatever reforms the present military govern-
ment has carried out have been primarily in the modern sector.
6. Deere (1976: 3; 23-24) cites some evidence in the rural areas
that where modernization has taken place, the process has bene-
fitted rural women on the cooperatives (for example, in guaran-
teeing them the minimum wage and an eight-hour working day).
Thus, Deere notes, paradoxically the development of capitalist
relations of production over the servile relations prevailing
on the pre-capitalist hacienda in Peru has given women certain
advantages (although she further notes the effects are contra-
dictory, since other rural women -- for example, those on the
minifundia -- benefit only indirectly, and in some ways, their
lot becomes harder, i.e., they must work harder because neither
the men nor the women on the smallholdings can any longer supple-
ment their incomes by working on the hacienda in seed and harvest
time; the men seek wage labor further away from home and this
also increases the burden of the women who stay behind. Never-
theless, the increasing participation of minifundia women in
production and community affairs raises their status.
7. Prostitution is legal and regulated by the state in Peru; no
percentage can be assigned since the total was tabulated --
and hidden -- in the category "other services" in the Census
(Ministerio de Educaci6n, 1975s 3).
8. Laraine Testa-Zappert (1975) has discussed the reasons for the
large numbers of white-collar workers who are women in a study
which is a re-analysis of data from an investigation of employ-
ees of the Monterrey and Tia, Peruvian equivalents of the Five-
and-Ten-Cent store. Although the number of female white collar
workers is high, many are in the extremely low-paid, exploited
(and feminized) occupations of sales clerks, postal employees,
office workers in the private sector and governmentbureaucracies -
where, nevertheless, a white skin and "buena presencia," (good
looks) are requisites. Migrant, cholaa" women have no chance
of being hired in these positions. We would have liked very
much to include these women in our study, but were unable to do
so because of time and budget limitations.
9. It has been pointed out by many observers that social welfare
legislation has, by and large, militated against women. If the
costs (or a significant part of them) fall upon the employer,
it is logical that he will prefer to hire men. Moreover,
maternity leaves mean that a worker must be replaced before and
after the birth of her child, and her place kept for her (not
only in Peru, but in several other Latin American countries).
Chaplin, in his study of the textile industry in Peru, found
no factories that had hired a single new female employee since
the "enlightened" legislation was put into effect in 1956 (1967:
226-27). Boserup (1970: 113-14) notes that there is some evi-
dence that male-dominated governments and labor unions may con-
nive in demanding both equal pay for equal work and special
benefits for women, knowing that this will influence employers
to favor men for the best jobs in industry.
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In the 1961 Census, the population living in "populated centers,"
that is, district capitals, were considered as urban regardless
of the number of inhabitants. Additionally, the population liv-
ing in centers with "urban characteristics" (with population
equal to or higher than the administrative capital of the same
district) were also considered urban. See Note 3, p. 18 of
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