Here’s my roundabout answer.
Following is a list of informal requirements to obtain a job as a factory worker at the Cavite Export Processing Zone in the Philippines:
- 18 to 24 years old
- high school graduate, some college preferred
- good English skills
- diligent and hard-working
- can work fourteen hour shifts, six days a week
- can hold in urge to urinate for hours at a time, until designated breaks
- if married, must practice birth control or undergo tubal ligation
- single preferred, must be willing to undergo periodic virginity tests.
Women make up from 70 to 90 percent of the labor force in the various export processing zones around the Philippines. In Cavite, long-known as a “no strike zone,” young women workers are preferred for factory jobs because they are perceived as more “docile,” and therefore less likely to go on strike and demand better working conditions.
A pregnant worker represents disruption in the production process. Workers who get pregnant are routinely fired, but the companies still lose their investment in her training and will have to spend resources to train new workers. Hence the stipulations for “virginity tests” and against pregnancy.
Many of the young workers leave their barrios for jobs as factory workers to augment family income. If a young woman is seen as a potential troublemaker (aka activist), her family could receive a “visit” from their local mayor. It is left to the intimidated parents to beg their daughters to stop their organizing activities.
Oh, and following is a partial list of corporations that operate or subcontract companies within the Cavite Export Processing Zone:
- the Gap
- Liz Claiborne
- Calvin Klein
This is what the economic development politics of globalization does to women in export processing zones. All of us in countries like the United States, ALL of us, benefit from their labor.
My activism is for them.