Title: Women and industrialization in the Caribbean
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Title: Women and industrialization in the Caribbean
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Creator: Safa, Helen Icken
Publisher: Helen Icken Safa
Publication Date: 1988
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Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
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Women and Industrialization in the Caribbean

Export-led development strategies have recently become increasingly
popular in Latin America, especially in the manufacturing sector. This
includes several larger Latin American countries such as Brazil and
Mexico, that already had established manufacturing industries for the
domestic economy, and have turned to export as a way of earning foreign
currency and alleviating the debt crisis. The neo-liberal policies
implanted in these countries by the International Monetary Fund also
encouraged export-led growth, which, however, has met with mixed
success due to the "new protectionism" of the advanced industrial
societies such as the U.S.(Mendive 1980).

In the smaller countries of Central America and the Caribbean, exports
have long been the primary development strategy, ever since their
incorporation into the world economy in colonial times. However, starting
in the 1960's, in addition to traditional agricultural exports such as sugar,
coffee and bananas, there was an increase in manufacturing, following the
"industrialization by invitation" strategy initiated by Puerto Rico a decade
earlier. Contrary to the larger countries, where industrialization led to
the development of a local entrepreneurial sector, in the smaller countries
it, like export agriculture, was largely financed by foreign capital, mainly
subsidiaries of multinational corporations. This reflects the lack of
capital and technology in these countries(even more acute than in the
larger countries) plus the small size of the internal market, which
severely limits production for the domestic economy. In order to gain
access to foreign markets, these countries are forced to sell through
multinational corporations.
Export manufacturing represents a new stage in the international division
of labor in which developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean
are becoming exporters of manufacturing goods to advanced industrial
countries for the first time.ln the first stage, most of these countries
relied exclusively on primary production in agriculture and mining both
for domestic consumption and export, and imported most of their
manufactured goods. The second stage of import-substitution
industrialization was designed to correct this dependency, by fostering
nationalistic measures and protectionist legislation to stimulate
domestic manufacturing industry. However, most Latin American and











Caribbean countries were still dependent on capital and technology from
abroad, particularly for the production of more capital-intensive goods for
sale primarily to a luxury consumer market. Thus, multinational
corporations now produced manufactured goods within these countries (at
much lower cost) rather than exporting them from the U.S. or other
advanced industrial countries.
Export manufacturing, the third stage in the international division of
labor, does represent certain advantages for the smaller countries of the
region, due to the lack of capital, technology, and an adequate internal
market. Contrary to import substitution, the new trend seems to
encourage foreign investment by minimizing the importance of national
boundaries and allowing market mechanisms to operate without
constraint. Import substitution required the development of an internal
market, which had to be supported through the extension of domestic
purchasing power to the middle and working classes. In export
manufacturing, however, the market is entirely external. It demands the
maximum reduction of production costs, principally wages, in order to
compete effectively on the international level. In fact, the availability of
cheap labor appears to be the prime determining factor for investment;
hence this type of enterprise is generally found in countries where low
wages, high unemployment, limited natural resources, low levels of
unionization, and politically stable regimes prevail. Governments attempt
to encourage investment by lifting trade barriers and offering tax
holidays, subsidized credit, export subsidies and freedom from import
duties on raw materials and machinery needed for production.Hence the
role of the state is critical in this new form of industrialization.

In exchange, Latin American and Caribbean countries who have embarked
upon export manufacturing hope to improve their foreign exchange earnings
and to generate employment in these largely labor-intensive industries.
The growing unemployment problem, aggravated by the stagnation of the
agricultural sector, is one of the major reasons smaller countries in the
Caribbean and Central America have embarked on this form of
industrialization. It also meets the objections of those who criticized
capital-intensive industrialization, for generating comparatively little
employment, which was generally confined to men. In contrast,most of the
jobs generated through export manufacturing are for women, who
represented a small percentage of the industrial labor force under import










substitution. Latin America now has about half of the one million women
employed worldwide in multinationals (not just export manufacturing),
followed by Asia with 45 per cent and by Africa with 5 per cent. I.L.O
surveys indicate that employment in these multinational enterprises in
developing countries has increased very rapidly since the 1960's and that
employment opportunities for women have increased roughly parallel to
those for men.(I.L.O. 1985: 11)
The rising cost of labor in the U.S. is the principal reason behind the
movement of production abroad in manufacturing, which started in the
1960"s. This was a time of full employment and rising worker demand for
fringe benefits such as paid vacations, pension, sick leave, medical
insurance, etc, which drove labor costs even higher. Alternative sources
of cheap labor were diminishing through the reduction in admission of
unskilled immigrants in the Immigration Act of 1965, and through the
growth of the welfare state, which provided women and other marginal
groups with a substitute for poorly paid jobs. Technological changes such
as the development of a cheap and fast international cargo transport
system and the deskilling of work or the massification of labor" also
facilitated the movement of production abroad. The process of
fragmentation of labor has been going on in labor-intensive industries
such as the garment industry for quite some time, resulting in highly
skilled trades being reduced to repetitive and monotonous operations,
such as sewing one seam. (Braverman 1974) What is new is the way in
which this fragmentation has now been internationalized, with the more
skilled jobs being retained in the domestic sector, while the cheaper, more
unskilled jobs are sent abroad. In the case of garments, for example,
cutting of garments is most often done in the U.S., while sewing will be
done abroad.
This type of export manufacturing has been greatly facilitated by items
806.30 and 807.00 of the U.S. Tariff Law, which permits the partial
processing of U.S. goods abroad, with U.S. tariffs on re-entry limited to the
value added to the product, as a result of the labor process. These tariff
provisions are available not only to U.S. manufacturing firms, but also to
jobbers and to non-U.S. production firms, many of which subcontract to
large retailing firms like Sears Roebuck or J.C. Penney. The only
requirement under item 807.00 is that the articles assembled abroad be
made up of components made in the U.S., thereby encouraging the use of
U.S. raw materials and early-stage processing such as cutting in the











garment industry.
Export manufacturing through runaway shops, as this phenomenon is
popularly called, has received renewed emphasis through the passage in
1983 of President Reagan's Caribbean Basin Initiative or CBI. The CBI
declares the entire Caribbean Basin as a free trade area, establishing
one-way duty-free access to U.S. markets for Caribbean Basin exports for
a twelve-year period. The primary beneficiaries of the CBI are likely to be
the export manufacturing industries already operating in the area,
especially electronics and pharmaceuticals. Textiles and apparel have
been excluded from the CBI, due to opposition from U.S. labor, though it is
the area of greatest potential for expanding exports and creating jobs in
the Caribbean. Even before the CBI, textiles and electronics have been the
two areas of greatest growth in export manufacturing in the Caribbean
Basin, and textiles continue to benefit from special import quotas
assigned by the U.S. to certain Caribbean countries (Joekes 1987: 40).
Since both of these industries employ primarily women, the CBI is likely
to lead to a highly accelerated pattern of female industrial employment in
the Caribbean.

Critics of export manufacturing as a development strategy contend that it
only intensifies the dependence of Third World countries on advanced
industrial nations like the U.S. because foreign investors have exclusive
control of the markets, and these industries are totally dependent on
capital and technology imported from abroad. Furthermore, production is
not linked to the domestic economy, except for providing poorly paid,
unstable jobs. (e.g. Nayyar 1978; Pantojas-Garcia 1985). Despite recent
efforts to tie U.S. trade preferences to the advancement of workers rights
overseas, as in the CBI and in the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984, restrictive
labor legislation and poor wages and working conditions are still the norm
(Goold and Cavanagh 1986).

Although it has never been publicly stated, Puerto Rico's Operation
Bootstrap has served as a model for export-oriented industrial
development under the CBI, as well as earlier strategies of
"industrialization by invitation". (Pantojas-Garcia 1985). Thus, Puerto
Rico can offer important lessons for the rest of the Caribbean on the
limitations of this model. The Dominican Republic, on the other hand, is a
classic case of recently initiated export manufacturing, with three








5


well-developed free trade zones employing a total of 16,000 persons in
1979. Between 1975 and 1980 the revenues generated by the free trade
zones increased five fold, while exports grew from 27 million to 116
million in the same period (Duarte and Corten 1981: 6). In 1986 there were
a total of 30,000 women employed in free trade zones, employing between
one-fifth and one-third of the national female labor force in
manufacturing (Joekes 1987: 67-6). In addition to a small fourth zone
opened in Puerto Plata in 1983, two new sites were in an advanced stage of
preparation in 1966, and several other sites have been designated as zones
in various parts of the country (including a second zone in La Romana, one
of the zones studied here). (Joekes 1967: 33). Clearly export
manufacturing is a key component of Dominican development strategy, and
now constitutes a principal source of female industrial employment.

This paper will examine the impact of paid employment in export
processing on the status of women in Latin America and the Caribbean
through an analysis of data on women industrial workers in Puerto Rico
and the Dominican Republic. The Puerto Rican data was collected by the
author and a research assistant in 1960, while the Dominican data was
collected in 1961 by CIPAF (Centro de Investigacion para la Accion
Femenina), a private research institute in the Dominican Republic. The
Puerto Rican women are employed in branch plants of the same garment
firm,while the Dominican women are also predominantly employed in the
garment industry in export processing zones. There are important
variations among these women, in terms of age, marital status,
household composition and length of employment, as well as in the process
of industrialization in each country, which will be outlined below. Before
analyzing the data, however, I shall give a brief outline of a theoretical
framework for the analysis of women and industrialization in Third World
countries.


Women and Industrialization












Women have always constituted a source of cheap labor for industrial
capitalism, since the early days of the Industrial Revolution in England,
France and other western European countries.(Tilly and Scott 1978). But
the way in which women are incorporated into the paid industrial labor
force differs for women of different cultures, classes, and stages of
industrial development. With the development of industrial capitalism and
the movement of production outside the home into the factory, the family
ceased to function as a productive unit and became dependent on wages
earned outside the home. Although production became increasingly public,
reproduction remained within the private sphere of the family, though
clearly also affected by the macro- economic changes occurring in the
larger society. In particular, industrial capitalism had a profound impact
on the sexual division of labor, since by removing production from the
home, women became dependent on men as wage earners, and the family
lost much of its economic autonomy.

Marxist feminists have emphasized the separation of women's productive
and reproductive rolees resulting from industrial capitalism and the need
to incorporate women into paid employment as a way of breaking down
their isolation and dependence on men. Paid employment is expected to
give women greater economic autonomy, to increase their authority in the
household, and to develop their class consciousness as workers. However,
there are many obstacles to achieving such goals, including the
segregation of women into poorly paid, unstable jobs (such as export
manufacturing), their double burden of paid employment and domestic
labor, and a gender ideology which continues to portray women as
secondary workers even when they are fully employed. Barrett (1980) in
particular, emphasizes the importance of gender ideology in defining
women primarily in terms of their reproductive role, not only in the
family, but also in the workplace and at the level of the state. However,
since gender ideology is formed principally within the family through a
woman's dependence on a man's wage, Barrett argues that the family is
"the central site of the oppression of women." (Barrett 1960: 211).

However, I would argue that there are various levels of women's
subordination, within the family, within the workplace, and withirlthe
state, and that these different levels need to be kept analytically












separate. It is true that the social construction of gender takes place
largely within the family and is reflected at other levels of society.
However, this does not eliminate the labor market or the state as
independent sources of women's subordination, as I shall try to show here.
In short, I do not dismiss the family as a source of women's oppression,
but I think its importance needs to be examined in relationship to these
other two areas.

Our data also demonstrate that paid employment has an impact on gender
ideology, which is neither as static or uniform as Barrett depicts.
Certainly the degree to which her model of the family and gender ideology
apply to Third World women can be seriously questioned (Beneria and
Roldan 1987: 11; Stolcke 1964). Barrett's model is based on post-industrial
British society, while export manufacturing takes place largely in newly
industrialing countries. Most of the women employed in export processing
are holding industrial jobs for the first time, which gives us a unique
opportunity to study the initial effects of industrialization on women's
status. What kinds of women are recruited for these jobs in export
manufacturing? What is the impact of female industrial employment on
family structure and authority patterns? How important is the role of the
state in fostering this type of industrialization as well as in restricting
labor unrest and solidarity.? What is the impact of this type of industrial
employment on gender ideology and class consciousness among women?
These are some of the questions we shall address below.


Wages and Working Conditions

Most women in developing countries, especially in Asia and Africa, are
employed in agriculture. However, between 1970 and 1980 the female
industrial labor force in developing countries increased by 56 percent. In
1980, 28 percent of industrial workers in developing countries were
women, led by Asia, and followed by Latin America and Africa. In large
part this is due to the growth of multinationals and export
manufacturing, since the bulk of women employed by multinationals are in
industry;out of some 750,000 women employed in manufacturing by
multinationals in developing countries, probably more than half a million
may be found in export-oriented manufacturing, both in free trade zones










and outside. (ILO 1985: 7 and 27). Free trade zones are special areas set
aside by the government for export manufacturing, in order to prevent the
entry of these products into the domestic economy.

The history of labor-intensive industry in advanced capitalist societies
helps us to understand the predominance of women in these new export
manufacturing industries in developing countries. If we trace the history
of the garment industry in the U.S., for example, we can demarcate at least
three stages in the process of female labor recruitment, including the use
of a native labor force in the early stages of industrialization, which
employed the daughters of farm families from the rural areas; 2)the shift
in the mid-nineteenth century to female immigrant labor, who represented
a cheaper labor force since immigrant women had a greater need and
acceptance of paid wage labor, and therefore accepted worse working
conditions and lower wages; and 3)the runaway shop, whereby the search
for cheap labor jumped national borders into developing countries with
vast labor surpluses brought on by high unemployment and population
growth. The runaway shop exports jobs instead of importing labor,
particularly to small countries in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea
and Taiwan); in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados and the Dominican
Republic); and in Central America (El Salvador and Costa Rica). However,
even large Latin American countries such as Mexico have set up export
manufacturing zones along the border.(M. Patricia Fernandez Kelly 1963).

The ILO( 1985: 39) reports that wages for women workers in multinational
industrial enterprises in developing countries typically range from a
minimum of 5 to 25 percent of wages for similar jobs and workers in their
Western industrialized home countries. While such a labor cost
differential supports our thesis regarding the multinationals' search for
cheap labor, the ILO (Ibid.: 40-41) also maintains that wages are only one
factor in the decision to relocate, and that multinationals almost
invariably pay higher wages than non-multinationals in virtually all
countries. While these wages are usually at or above the legal minimum
wage, and compare favorably with women's wages in alternative low-skill
occupations, such as farming, domestic service, and most service sector
jobs, they are still 25 to 50 percent lower than those of comparable male
workers, and are usually not sufficient to support a family. (Ibid.: 42-43).










Low wages in export manufacturing reflects the common misconception
that women's wages are only a supplement to the family income and
therefore need not be adequate to support their dependents. This tends
to confirm Barrett's thesis that gender ideology influences the labor
market and legitimizes the payment of lower wages to women as
secondary laborers. It is reinforced by the fact that most women workers
in export manufacturing worldwide are young and single and it is assumed
that they are only responsible for their own expenses and may even be
supported by their families. However, our data from Puerto Rico and the
Dominican Republic show that even young, single women are making a
major contribution to the family income. This is especially true for
single women who live at home and may be one of several contributors to
the family income. For example, in our sample of Puerto Rican women
workers in the garment industry, a woman's salary never represents less
than 40 percent of the total family income, while among female-headed
households, most women are the sole source of support for their families.
(Safa 1984: 1179-1181).
Both in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, however, in a departure
from the global pattern, the majority of women workers in export
manufacturing are not single, but married or women who head their own
households. In fact, employers in the Dominican Republic indicate a
preference for women with children because they feel their need to work
ensures greater job commitment (Joekes 1986; 59). Their economic need is
shown by the fact that, in the CIPAF study of women workers in the three
principal free trade zones, nearly three-fourths of the female heads of
households and nearly half of the married women claim that they are the
principal breadwinner for the family (Ricourt 1986: 49). It is clear that
these women are not dependent on a male wage, which refutes Barrett's
model of gender ideology. However, the preference for women with
children has not led employers to improve their wages, which have
actually been reduced through devaluation. With the exchange rates
prevailing in August, 1986, the monthly average wage for these women was
approximately $90. (Joekes 1987: 55).

Wages are much higher in Puerto Rico than in other areas, and in our
sample most women earned between $120 and $129 weekly in 1980. Most
women are paid on a piecework basis, and can increase their wage
considerably with more experience and greater productivity. Women's










wages also differ by sector, with electronics paying higher wages than
textiles or garments, reflecting the former's attempt to recruit younger,
better educated workers. (ILO 1985: 40; M. Patricia Fernandez Kelly
1983).In Puerto Rico, despite a concerted effort to diversify industrial
employment, the garment industry is still the largest industrial source of
employment on the island, representing one-fourth of all manufacturing
employment. The average hourly wage of $3.39 an hour in 1960 was the
lowest industrial wage on the island, but still much higher than
neighboring Caribbean countries such as Haiti, Barbados, or the Dominican
Republic. This competition from other areas has led to a severe decline in
industrial employment in Puerto Rico, including the garment industry,
where employment fell from 40,300 workers in 1973 to 33,900 workers in
1980 (Depto. de Trabajo 1981: Table 1). Competition from other areas is
likely to be increased by the CBI, unless Puerto Rico is able to establish a
twin plant syndrome,similar to that along the Mexican border.

Competition from other areas also helps account for the high
unemployment rates in Puerto Rico, which are currently reaching about 20
percent. Unemployment rates for men have risen more rapidly than for
women, and in 1980 stood at 19.6 percent and 12.3 percent respectively.
Ninety percent of our Puerto Rican sample say it is easier for a women to
find a job than for a man,again emphasizing that women no longer depend
on a male wage. This reflects the shift from an agrarian to an industrial
economy since 1940, with occupational changes tending to favor female
employment over male. More than half the new jobs created between 1960
and 1980 went to women, and in 1980 their participation in the
manufacturing sector was approximately equal (Depto. de Trabajo 1981:
2-3). By 1980, labor force participation rates for women had increased to
27.8 percent, while those for men declined from 80 percent to 60 percent
in 1975 (Safa 1985: 85). Some men withdrew from the labor force, while
others migrated to the U.S. in search of employment.

Export manufacturing tends to seek out areas of labor surplus, since high
unemployment (for men as well as women) often forces women into paid
employment as an alternative. In the Dominican Republic, for example,
open unemployment in 1980 stood at 19 percent, and was still higher for
women (25 percent) than for men (16.5 percent), many of whom are still
employed in the agricultural sector. However, there were signs that, like










in Puerto Rico, women were taking on an increasing responsibility for the
maintenance of their families. As in Puerto Rico, male labor force
participation rates have been declining since 1960, while female rates
have increased nearly fourfold over the same period, to 36 percent among
women aged 15 years or more in 1980 or 20 percent for the entire female
population (Joekes 1987: 5). Thus, in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican
Republic, high male unemployment combined with job opportunities for
women increases the burden on women to support their families, and
further diminishes the myth of the male breadwinner.

The severe economic crisis in the Dominican Republic since 1960 has
reinforced the need to incorporate additional wage earners into the family
for survival. The crisis was brought on by declining terms of trade, rates
of investment and growth in G.D.P (0.6 percent in 1964), engendering a
severe external debt and public sector deficits. The Dominican government
appealed to the International Monetary Fund, which imposed an austerity
program resulting in devaluation, a decline in real earnings, growing
unemployment, and rampant inflation, which reached 38 percent in 1985
(op. cit.: 9). Under pressure from industrialists in the free trade zones, the
Dominican government granted them access to the parallel market, which
resulted in a drastic lowering of operating costs, including, labor (op.
cit.: 39). This new exchange rate policy is the main reason for the rapid
growth of export manufacturing in the last three years. As one Dominican
government official proudly told me: "We have the lowest wages in the
Caribbean even lower than Haiti!"

Why don't workers protest? High unemployment, low wages, and the
constant threat of companies to relocate elsewhere weakens the
possibility of labor solidarity among women workers in export
manufacturing. There is little investment in machinery or physical plant,
so these labor-intensive firms can move to a new location at no great
cost. Labor turnover is very high, due both to the footloose nature of these
plants, and to some questionable labor practices.. In the Dominican
Republic, one-third of the interviewed and working in free trade zones had
been employed by the same plant for less than a year. (CIPAF 1981).
Workers are forced to serve an apprenticeship, which can last as long as
three months, during which they receive only half the regular wage., and
can be discharged for any reason. Many workers cannot withstand the










intense competition of piecework and the pressure of high production
quotas. The normal work week is 44 hours, but many plants require
employees to work overtime, whether they wish to or not, which puts a
particular strain on women with young children. Export manufacturing
plants generally lack transport, proper eating facilities, medical care, or
child care. Discontent is expressed in absenteeism and eventual
withdrawal, rather than through unions, which are often prohibited by host
governments in order to curb labor unrest. In the Dominican Republic,
there are no unions in the free trade zones, although not legally prohibited
(Joekes 1987: 46).

Turnover in export manufacturing has also been attributed to the nature of
the labor force recruited. Since the great majority of women workers in
export manufacturing are young and single, it is assumed that many of
these women are only working for a few years until they marry and/or
have children, thereby reinforcing the sexual division of labor and
dependence on a male wage. However, most of the single women we
interviewed in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico plan to continue
working after they marry and/or have children, which again suggests that
the sexual division of labor is changing. As noted above, the great
majority of women workers in export manufacturing in both countries have
children, so that this is not seen as an obstacle by either the employees or
the employers. Given the high rates of unemployment and cost of living in
both countries, women realize they cannot depend solely on a male wage to
support a family.

In Puerto Rico, where all the plants studied are unionized, working
conditions are considerably better, with shorter work weeks,
comprehensive medical insurance, paid vacations, and other fringe
benefits provided both by the government and the union contract. However,
workers still lacked public transport and child care facilities, though the
majority of women workers were married and had children. The relative
stability of employment helps to explain why a third of our sample had
been employed by the same firm for ten years or more, and a significant
proportion had worked there for twenty to thirty years, although there was
no increase in salary with seniority. The greatest problem facing these
women is the possible loss of employment due to production cutbacks and
possible plant closings. In effect, one plant did close down in the process










of our fieldwork, but because of union regulations, workers were given the
opportunity to relocate to another branch plant of the same firm in a
nearby town. All of the plants have been plagued with production
cutbacks, which has brought about periodic loss of employment for 65
percent of the women in our sample. Because of the many years they have
been working in the garment industry, the older workers do not feel
capable of starting a new job, and are not likely to be hired over younger
workers. Thus, the lack of job alternatives also restricts labor unrest
among women workers in export manufacturing.

In the Dominican Republic, the job alternatives open to women are even
more limited. In 1960, one-fourth of Dominican women were still
employed in domestic service (Joekes 1987: 21), while other tried to eke
out a living in the informal economy as self-employed vendors, artisans,
etc. In fact, many Dominican factory workers try to supplement their
meager incomes with a san or rotating credit association and other
informal economic activities. Advancement on the job is also limited
because there are relatively few technical or supervisory personnel, most
of whom are men and often foreigners (I.L.O. 1985: 56)

Thus many factors contribute to the lack of class consciousness and
worker solidarity in these new industrial plants, including the youth and
constant turnover among workers, their recency of entry into industrial
employment, low wages, high unemployment, lack of job alternatives, the
fear of plant closures, and restrictive labor legislation which prohibits
unions, strikes, and other forms of protest. All of these are class-related
factors which could apply equally well to men. The fact that most of
these workers are women undoubtedly contributes to their vulnerability,
and may make them more hesitant than men to engage in worker protest.
While this may reflect gender ideology, it also is indicative of the strong
obstacles women face and their lack of support from such traditional
channels as unions or the government. Thus, despite the critical
dependence of families on their wages, women continue to be treated as
secondary workers. The women themselves, however, recognize the
importance of their paid employment, and it has had a significant impact
on household authority patterns, as we shall see in the next section.










The Family, Life Cycle and Household Composition
Several studies have attempred to document the impact of women's paid
employment on the sexual division of labor in the household, both at the
behavioral and ideological level (Stolcke 1984; Lamphere 1986; Pessar
1984; Saffioti 1986; Kessler-Harris 1982; Beneria and Roldan 1987). The
expectation is that as women take on full-time jobs, their responsibilities
within the home decrease, while their authority increases due to their
greater contribution to the family income. However, results are mixed,
and vary by culture, class and household composition, as well as by the
women's occupation and her contribution to the household economy. Thus,
structural as well as ideological factors influence the impact of paid
employment on gender roles in the family. In our study, an additional
important factor is the woman's stage in the life cycle. The impact of
paid employment upon the sexual division of labor in the household is
likely to vary considerably for single women, married women, and female
heads of household. At the same time, these different stages in the life
cycle also affect their attitudes toward work and their identification as
workers. Life cycle in also reflected in marked differences in the size and
composition of the household, which in turn affects the sexual division of
labor and authority patterns.

For example, hiring young, single women is less disruptive of traditional
authority patterns, since, as a daughter, a woman worker does not
directly challenge the male role of economic provider in the same way a
wife may. (Cf. Lamphere 1986: 127). This may help explain the general
predominance of young, single women in export manufacturing, where 85
percent of women workers worldwide are under the age of 25 (I.L.O. 1985:
31). Management prefers to hire young women because they are supposedly
more efficient, have lower rates of absenteeism, and cost less in terms of
maternity benefits. Gender ideology is also reinforced by the general
belief that married women belong in the home ( I.L.O. 1985: 31-32). In our
Puerto Rican study, we also detected a preference for young, single women
among recent recruits to the garment industry, but women under 30 still
constituted only 44 percent of our sample, becuase of the predominance of
older, long-term employees. Management prefers young women because
they are better educated, work harder and complain less. As single
women, they are less likely to be burdened with household or childcare
responsibilities, which can lead to fatigue or absenteeism on the job.










Many of the younger Puerto Rican women come from strong patriarchal
rural traditions, where they readily transfer the authority of their father
to the company manager, whose word is seldom questioned (Safa 1984:
1185). Thus, there is still deference to male authority at home and on the
job among these young, single women.
Most young Puerto Rican women see work as a way of contributing to the
family income, rather than as a way of establishing their own
independence. The young, single women in our Puerto Rican sample tend to
be members of large rural households, consisting in over 80 percent of the
cases of four to over seven persons. As a result, there are usually two
and often three to five persons working in each household, usually also in
factory employment. The effects of this multiple wage-earning strategy
can be seen in the relatively high family incomes among these single
women, where over 40 percent of the households have annual incomes over
$14,000. (Safa 1984: 1177-78). However, these relatively high incomes
represent a particular stage in the family's life cycle, when they have a
maximum number of wage earners contributing to the family income,
which will be lost as children marry and set up households of their own.
No households reported income from children no longer living at home.

Parents, and particularly the father is still considered the authority in
the house, even if he is no longer working,especially if he owns the house
and land on which the family lives. Most of these men are too old to work,
and live off their children's earnings and social security, food stamps and
other supplementary sources of income. Household tasks are shared
among all members, following a strict sexual division of labor. Thus, men
would not be expected to participate in housework or childcare as long as
there are other women around to carry out these chores. Young working
girls, however, are often relieved of major household responsibilities by
their mother, who does the cooking, cleaning, etc. In this way, daughters
are relieved of the double burden of paid employment and household
responsibilities which wives face, and feel less conscious of the need to
challenge traditional gender ideology.
The maintenance of extended family ties reduces the pressure on men to
take on more household responsibilities. These rural households are part
of a tightly knit network of kin and neighbors, who help each other out in
child care, house building, shopping, etc. Nearly all of the younger women
in our sample have relatives living nearby, and over 60 percent have










relatives working in the same factory, and often travel to work together.

Another factor that helps explain the traditional gender ideology of these
women is that they have not been working very long. Most of these young
women were hired in the last five years, and this is often their first job.
Most started working between the ages of 18 and 20, after completing all
or most of high school. They are generally satisfied with their jobs,
although over half complain that conditions in the plant have worsened in
the last few years.Most complaints center on the insecurity of
employment,due to production slowdowns, and on low wages, which are
particularly important to younger women. Younger women are quite
confident that they can find another job if they should be laid off,even in a
better-paying pharmaceutical or electronics firm. If they lost this job,
most of these young women would look for another job rather than staying-
home, because they need the money. Many of the younger, married women
are now renting and are working to help buy or build their own home (still
a tradition in the rural area, with one room added at a time). Thus, though
they plan to continue working after marriage, their primary identity is
still as wives and mothers rather then as workers.

There is little evidence of class consciousness among these young, single
women. Though they are aware of problems on the job and in the larger
society, such as inflation and the movement of industry to other areas,
they do not identify with these issues. They are concerned with getting
ahead, finding a husband and having a family, all matters which do not
challenge the existing gender ideology or system of class inequality.
Though there is a strong sense of sharing and solidarity, it is not so much
with fellow workers, as with female kin and neighbors, who constitute for
these young women their most important reference group.

In contrast, older women are more isolated and alienated. This is
particularly true of female-headed households, who tend to live in the city
in smaller households of one to three persons They have fewer kin living
nearby, and tend to socialize infrequently, even with neighbors or fellow
workers with whom they may have been working for many years. Small
family size limits the number of wage earners per family, and many of the
female-headed households depend entirely on their own salary for a living.
Not surprisingly, over half of these female-headed households have the










lowest incomes of $5000 to $6000 annually.

However, older women who are married and whose husbands also
contribute to the family often enjoy incomes as high as $12,000 to over
$14,000 annually., Despite the lack of male employment in the area, some
of these men make over $175 a week, and may be employed as managers or
other lower level professionals. Most men, however, earn between $100 and
$175 a week, working in a factory, for the government, or in their own
business such as carpentry or as a public driver. Very few husbands are
unemployed, and over half have been employed at the same job for the last
five years, suggesting most of these men have stable jobs. Still married
women generally contribute from 40 to 60 percent of the household
income.

Older women are merely likely to question management's authority and to
argue for their rights than the younger, rural women. This helps explain
why management prefers young workers, who are not considered as
"troublesome". Many of the older workers have worked in the plant for
twenty to thirty years and, unlike younger women, have little opportunity
of obtaining another job outside the garment industry. They are very
concerned with job stability, and feel extremely threatened by production
slowdowns and possible closure, as happened with one plant. This is
particularly true of female-headed households, whose entire livelihood
often depends upon their continued employment, and who may even be cut
off from union pensions if they are let go before age 62. While this could
tend to make them more docile, it would appear that long-term paid
employment has contributed to a sense of self-worth and independence
among these older women, while urbanization and isolation from kin has
weakened the patriarchal tradition still prevalent in the rural area. Thus,
older women may identify more strongly with the workplace than younger
women, but they lack the cohesion necessary to develop a sense of
collective action and to promote class solidarity.

Life cycle and household composition not only affects attitudes towards
the workplace, but also the sexual division of labor in the household.
Married women tend to live in nuclear families, and cannot account on the
assistance of other household members as much as single women do. The
husband is forced to help out more with household chores, although










primary responsibility still rests with the wife. This is particularly tru
of younger, married women, indicating that the deference these women
showed to their fathers does not necessarily extend to their husbands,
with whom they expect a more egalitarian relationship. Most Puerto
Rican women in our study claim that working has not given them more
authority in the household, but when asked who is the boss in the
household, married women commonly responded "We both are". The sense
of joint responsibility for the household is reflected as well in the sharing
of important decisions and household expenses. Since both are working,
earnings are usually pooled and husbands no longer have exclusive
budgetary control, as was common when the man was the sole
breadwinner. Most importantly, most Puerto Rican men now expect their
wives to work and no longer consider it a threat to their authority. It is
interesting that none of the divorced or separated women, most of whom
are over 45, blamed the breakdown of their marriage on their working
outside the home. Marital breakdown was generally blamed on the man's
personal behavior, such as drinking, other women, or jealousy. Most men.
were employed at the time of the breakdown, suggesting that
unemployment and the inability of the man to carry out his role as
economic provider was also not a major problem. According to the
women, their husbands were not threatened by their working. It would
appear that paid employment, while not precipitating marital breakdown,
at least enables the woman to leave an unsatisfactory marriage by
providing her with an alternative source of income.
In the Dominican Republic, the industrialization program is much more
recent and nearly half the women workers in the CIPAF sample have been
employed less than two years. These women are also much younger than
the Puerto Rican sample, with most being under 30 years of age.
Nevertheless, over one-half of the Dominican women workers are married
and one-fourth are female heads of household. Most of the married women
are in consensual unions, which are far more prevalent than in Puerto Rico,
which almost all of the married women in our sample have been married in
a church or civil ceremony. Fertility levels are also higher, with almost
half of the Dominican women with children having three or more children
(Catanzaro 1986) compared to a mean in our Puerto Rican sample of under
two. Educational levels, however, are roughly comparable, and in both cases
39 percent of the sample have completed high school. Many Dominican
women are continuing to study at night or on weekends as they work.












As in Puerto Rico, life cycle or marital status has a profound impact on
the way in which women regard their earnings and their contribution to
the household economy. While 38 percent of Dominican women workers
consider themselves the principal economic provider, the figure is much
lower for single and married women, and much higher for female heads of
households, most of whom are divorced. ICatanzaro 1986: Table 3-14).
Among married women,, husbands are generally considered the principal
economic provider, and are chiefly responsible for basic items like food
and housing. However, the great majority of single and married women
also maintain that their families could not survive without their wages,
suggesting that their wages are not supplementary, but are making an
essential contribution to the family income.
At the time of this study, the unemployment rate among the husbands of
these Dominican workers was lower than the national average (11 percent
vs. 16.5 percent), and a number of them held fairly good jobs in factories or
other skilled employment. The importance of the man's wages in the
household economy of Dominican free trade zone workers may help explain
the persistence of strong patriarchal authority patterns among the women
interviewed by CIPAF. Eighty percent of the married women consider their
husband to be the head of the household, and he tends to dominate financial
decisions, such as making major purchases or paying the bills. On the
other hand, couples have begun to share decisions on matters such as the
number of children to have and the children's education, while the majority
of married women make their own decisions on matters such as the use of
contraceptives, and what organizations to join.

Women in consensual unions have a greater tendency to make their own
decisions regarding finances, childrearing, etc. than women who are
legally married, suggesting that the former may be less subordinate to
men and less dependent on them economically (Cf. Brown 1975). However,
the reverse is true when women were asked their opinions about women's
rights at home and in the workplace, in matters such as the sharing of
household tasks,whether women should work outside the home, whether
domestic concerns should be left entirely to women, and whether men and
women should enjoy equal access to education and to equal rights at work.
In almost all these cases, women in consensual unions consistently
favored less autonomy for women than women who are legally married,










though the majority of women in all cases were in favor of more
egalitarian relationships. In part, this may be explained by the higher
educational level of legally married women, among whom 49 percent have
completed high school as compared to 23 percent of women in consensual
unions. However, it also suggests that women in consensual unions may
want the relative economic security and high status that is supposed to
accompany legal marriage. It suggests that while women in consensual
union may enjoy greater autonomy in the conjugal relationship, they also
must carry a greater burden of responsibility for maintaining the family
than women who are legally married. In order to get a man to assume this
responsibility they cannot directly challenge his role as head of the
household and thus are forced to support the maintenance of patriarchal
authority patterns. This strong indication of the persistence of
traditional gender ideology reflects the constraints women feel in raising
a family on their own.

The extreme poverty which most female-headed households suffer helps
explain the continued dependence upon the man as a provider. Even in
Puerto Rico, female heads of households are very poor,since they are
largely dependent on their low wages for survival. However, in our Puerto
Rican study, most female heads of households are older and living alone or
with other adults, so they can manage on their low wage, particularly if
they own their own home. If they have young children, they are also
eligible for AFDC and other forms of welfare assistance for survival.

No such transfer payments exist for female heads of household in the
Dominican Republic, however, and many female heads of household have
young children to support, which makes their situation far more
precarious. In 1980, employed female heads od households in the urbn
areas of the Dominican Republic earned only slightly more than half as
much as male heads from their principal occupation (Baez 1985). Due to
the shortage of housing and child care, as well as for economic reasons,
unmarried mothers often leave their children with their mother or other
relatives in the rural area, and visit them only on once a week or less.
Female heads of household often result from unstable consensual unions,
and women often have to support children from more than one union.
Therefore it is not surprising that they would prefer to have a man share
this responsibility.













We cannot assume that paid employment is the only factor explaining the
change in gender ideology that has taken place in some Dominican and
Puerto Rican households. In our analysis, we have also noted the
importance of other factors such as age, household composition, the life
cycle, rural vs. urban residence, the level of education, and length of
employment. It is clear that paid employment has a greater impact on
wives than daughters, because of the critical role that wives play in the
household division of labor. It is also clear that changes in gender
ideology have been more extensive in Puerto Rico than in the Dominican
Republic, where most married women still regard the husband as the
principal economic provider and head of household. Undoubtedly, many
other factors need to be taken into account in explaining the wider
acceptance of female paid employment and more egalitarian authority
patterns tnat have developed in Puerto Rican working class households,
including migration and greater contact with the U.S., the level of
education, as well as the virtual total transformation from an agrarian to
an urban industrial society, which is far less complete in the Dominican
Republic. But in both areas, we can begin to see the erosion of patriarchal
authority patterns as women become essential contributors to the
household economy.



Role of the State
The final factor to be taken into account in examining the impact of paid
employment on the status of women workers in export manufacturing is
the role of the state. As we noted earlier, in order for countries to remain
competitive in the international market, governments must assure export
manufacturers a cheap and reliable labor force, and may institute
restrictive legislation prohibiting unions, strikes and other forms of labor
unrest. Governments fear that labor unrest and higher wages will induce
export manufacturing industries to move elsewhere, as happened in
Jamaica under the Manley government (Bolles 1983) and in Puerto Rico
with the extension of the federal minimum wage law to the island.
Nevertheless, the ILO (1985: 62) claims that "there appears to be no
correlation between restrictive labour legislation or unionisation and
attractiveness for foreign investment." The ILO maintains that there are










great differences in unionisation rates by country and by industry, and that
multinational enterprises ( not only those employing mainly women) are
more likely to be unionised than national enterprises. Most of their data is
based on studies in Asia.

The CIPAF data from the Dominican Republic contradict the ILO assertions
regarding the level of unionisation in multinationals and national
enterprises. There are no labor unions in the free trade zones of the
Dominican Republic, although 70 percent of the women interviewed in the
CIPAF survey indicated they were in favor of unionization. Unions are not
legally prohibited in the free trade zones, and in fact, workers' right to
organize is supposedly required under the U.S. General System of
Preferences and the Caribbean Basin Initative, both of which have been
extended to the Dominican Republic (Joekes 1987: 46). In the CIPAF study,
comparative data was drawn from women working in national
manufacturing industries, and it was found that one-fourth of these
women are unionised compared to none in the free trade zones. In addition,
among women working in national manufacturing industries,wages were
generally higher than in the free trade zones and daily working hours
were shorter. (Reyes 1987) Part of the wage differential may be explained
by the fact that 65 percent of the women in national industries had
received salary raises, compared to 46 percent in the free trade zones,
who have generally been working for less time.(Ricourt 1986: 55-6). In
addition, domestic industries are more capital intensive and can therefore
afford to pay higher wages.

Nevertheless, wages in the free trade zones fall well below the mean level
of women's earnings in the Dominican Republic, and since they are tied to
the minimum wage, they are unlikely to be raised without government
support. (Joekes 1987: 71) As we noted previously, however, labor costs
have actually been lowered by the government granting industrialists in
the free trade zone access to the parallel market, which gives them a far
better exchange value for the dollar. Although wages were raised after
the devaluation of the Dominican peso, there was a 17 percent reduction in
the actual average real wage in manufacturing industries between 1981 and
1984 (Ibid.: 54-5). At the same time, worker productivity in the Dominican
Republic is estimated at 70 percent of U.S. levels, which is higher than in
almost all Caribbean and Central American countries (Ibid.: 47-46), so










employers could clearly afford to pay higher wages.


Several studies have noted that the discipline in the Dominican export
manufacturing plants is brutal, with women not being allowed to talk to
anyone or to go to the bathroom, while some women are forced to stand for
hours. (Duarte and Corten 1981; Catanzaro 1986; Ricourt 1986). Sexual
harassment and favoritism has also been reported. Workers have lost their
jobs for attempting to organize unions or other pro-labor activity, and are
then blacklisted by other firms in the zone as well. Women who have tried
to take complaints of mistreatment or unjust dismissal to the government
Labor Office have generally been rejected in favor of management. It is
not surprising, then, that in the CIPAF survey, less than 20 percent of the
women had ever presented complaints to the Labor Office (Catanzaro
1986).

State services for workers are sorely inadequate. We noted earlier that
there is no public transportation to the zones, so that women are forced to
use private minibuses which are costly, hazardous, and far from many of
their residences. Some women are forced to take two busses, so the trip
can last over an hour. Child care is also a problem, and housing is very
expensive, so that many women decide to leave their children behind in the
rural area. The lack of state health services is a major cause of
absenteeism and reduced productivity for women workers, to the extent
that some industrialists have begun to offer health facilities to workers
directly. Not only are the state health services very slow, but there is a
appalling lack of personnel and supplies, and services are not extended to
workers' families, causing secondary absenteeism among women with
children (Joekes 1987: 49-50).

In Puerto Rico, working conditions in unionized plants are much better. The
majority of our Puerto Rican respondents feel that unions have brought
about improvement, particularly fringe benefits such as medical
insurance plans, vacation and retirement pay, etc. However, the most
important concerns of workers are higher wages and more job stability,
and unions in Puerto Rico have been rather ineffective in promoting either.
Unions realize that industry has been leaving the island because of the
competition of lower wages elsewhere, including the Dominican Republic,
where the firm studied already has a twin plant which does the initial










processing. Therefore, they try to offer workers compensation in the form
of fringe benefits rather than higher wages. However, even here unions
are in a difficult position because the Puerto Rican government already
offers such an array of worker benefits, such as medical care,
unemployment insurance, and social security. The majority of the
population receive food stamps, which enables them to buy food at cheap
prices. About one-fourth of our Puerto Rican sample received food stamps,
chiefly in the large, rural households or among female household heads.

Ostensibly a subsidy to workers, these transfer programs, all of which
are supported by the Federal government, actually enable marginal
industries such as garment manufacturing, to continue paying low wages,
and to weather fluctuations in demands by temporary layoffs. Transfer
payments thus have become a device for holding low-wage, labor intensive
industries on the island. Plant managers complain that these transfer
payments have reduced the work ethic of the Puerto Rican worker, causing
absenteeism and withdrawal from the labor force. However, in our sample,
nearly ninety percent of our respondents indicated that they expected to
stay on the job indefinitely, and 65 percent indicated they would look for
another job if they were laid off, indicating a strong work commitment. In
addition, over half of our respondents have never stopped working for
prolonged periods, even for illness or pregnancy, particularly among
female heads of household. Clearly there is a difference between this
group and the large number of Puerto Rican female heads of household who
are dependent on welfare payments for survival. It would appear from our
data that in Puerto Rico, welfare payments are a more important factor in
the formation of female-headed households than female paid employment.

Puerto Rico is not able to adopt the harsh, coercive anti-labor measures of
the Dominican Republic because its workers are better organized and have
more options, principally transfer payments and migration. Jobs have
tended to hold more women than men on the island (Monk 1981), and about
one-fifth of our sample has worked in the United States, while over 60
percent of the husbands of married women have migrated for a year or
more. These workers also bring back principles of labor organization
learned in the U.S., and are likely to be more knowledgeable about worker
rights. Although Dominican migration to the U.S. has increased
considerably during the past two decades, it still has not reached the












proportions of Puerto Rico.

Both coercion in the Dominican Republic and co-optation in Puerto Rico
have produced a relatively docile labor force. The major threat to Puerto
Rican workers is the fear the plants will move elsewhere, and unions and
the government seem unable to stop the exodus. In the Dominican Republic,
export manufacturing plants have also experienced a considerable
attrition rate, with one-third of the plants leaving between 1970 and 1962
(Joekes 1987: 69). However, the continued influx of new plants and the
growing importance of export manufacturing as a development strategy
suggest that the government will do little to deter foreign investment in
the near future, which means little improvement in wages, working
conditions, or even state services. It could be argued that the government
has little choice, given its staggering debt and poor terms of trade.
Nevertheless, workers are being exploited in the process, and the fact that
most are women may contribute to the state's apparent indifference to
their plight.

Conclusions
While export manufacturing has served to integrate women into
development by offering t a new source of industrial employment, its
impact on the status of women in the family and in the larger society is
contradictory. By taking advantage of women's inferior position in the
labor market, export manufacturing may reinforce their subordination
through poorly paid, dead-end jobs. On the other hand, women's increased
ability to contribute to the family income may challenge traditional
patriarchal authority patterns and lead to more egalitarian family
structures. This is particularly true where, as in Puerto Rico and the
Dominican Republic, women have become critical contributors to the
household economy.
The data presented here on Puerto Rican and Dominican women workers
enable us to discern several factors which condition the impact of paid
employment in export manufacturing on the status of women and their
level of contribution to the household economy. We have seen that the
impact differs according to wages, working conditions and other
job-related factors; the structure of the household economy and in
particular, the nature of male employment patterns; the life cycle of the
women employed, which largely determines the degree of dependence on











their wages; alternative income sources for women including not only
jobs, but transfer payments and the possibility of migration; and the role
of the state in restricting labor unrest and solidarity. In each of these
areas, Puerto Rican women workers generally fare better than their
Dominican counterparts,suggesting that they are in a better position to
make a substantial contribution to the household economy, and therefore
should have more leverage in family decisions.

The results appear to confirm this hypothesis. It would seem that with
the increased incorporation of Puerto Rican women into paid employment,
there has been a fundamental change in the sexual division of labor in the
household and in gender ideology. Even in the Dominican Republic, the
absolute authority of men in the household is being increasingly
challenged, although men are still considered the head of the household.
In place of the patriarchy of the past, a more egalitarian pattern is
emerging in which women and men share responsibility for the
maintenance of the household as well as sharing decisions and household
tasks. This pattern is the result of a gradual process of negotiation, in
which women use their earnings and the family's increased dependence on
them to bargain for increased authority and sharing of responsibilities
within the household. (cf. Roldan 1985: 275).

Among female-headed households, paid employment is often critical to
the family's survival and income levels are much lower. This is
particularly true in the Dominican Republic, where women do not have
recourse to transfer payments as in Puerto Rico. However, our data
suggest that these female heads of household feel even more vulnerable
than other women workers and have not lost their ideological dependence
on a male provider. In fact, as we have seen among women in consensual
unions in the Dominican Republic, these women are often anxious to have
the security and stability of legal marriage, even if it means maintaining
patterns of male dominance. It would seem that women prefer to bargain
for more authority and respect in the household than to live alone with
their children and fend for themselves. Why?

The evidence presented here suggests that women, even if they are
working and major contributors to the household economy, prefer a stable
conjugal relationship, though they are aware that it subjects them to











male dominance. As Stolcke (1984: 292) notes, there are material as well
as ideological pressures which continue to reinforce the nuclear family
among the working class. The extreme poverty of female headed
households makes all women realize how difficult it is to get along
without a male provider. But there are ideological reasons as well. The
family provides women with a social identity as wives and mothers which
proletarianization as wage workers has not diminished. On the contrary,
they work in order to contribute to their family's survival rather than for
their own self-esteem. This offers them some resistance to
proletarianization, for as Stolcke notes in her study of Brazilian women
agricultural workers, women can fall back on their essential attribute as
mothers and feel useful even if they are unemployed, while men in the
same situation are completely demoralized (Ibid.: 286).

While men seek identity in the public world of work, women are still
primarily confined to the family as wives and mothers. Barret argues that
this gender ideology constitutes the root of women's oppression and
serves only the interests of the bourgeoisie and working class men, both
of whom benefit from women's domestic role. However, I would argue that
the family also benefits women, both in terms of material support and
social identity, at the same time that it serves as a source of their
subordination. The working class women studied here are challenging this
subordination by trying to establish a more egalitarian relationship with
their husbands, while retaining the family as a source of emotional and
material support and social identity.

At least the women studied here have been more successful in negotiating
change at the household level than in the public world of work. It is clear
from the data presented here that in the Dominican Republic, women
workers are subject to extraordinary exploitation by management, and
receive little or no support from the government in their efforts to achieve
better wages and working conditions. Puerto Rican women workers are
much better off, but they too are limited by a paternalistic union which
refuses to recognize many of their needs, and a government very dependent
on foreign investment. Here the fault lies more with the lack of support
women workers receive from government, political parties, and unions
than with the women themselves. At present these women workers have
no adequate vehicles to express their grievances or to transform their












sense of exploitation (which is very real) into greater class
consciousness. Until women workers are given the same attention as men,
and not regarded as secondary or supplementary, they will continue to be
exploited at a higher rate as a source of cheap and docile labor. Dominican
and Puerto Rican women workers have effected considerable change at the
household level, which is one domain over which they still have some
control. Their exploitation and vulnerability at the extra-household level
may explain their reluctance to abandon the family, and their continued
primary identification as wives and mothers.


Helen I. Safa
Center for Latin American Studies
University of Florida
Gainesville, Fla. 32605




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