Effect of Work Intensification and Work Extensification on Women's Health in the Globalised Labour Market

By Lu, Jinky Leilanie | Journal of International Women's Studies, May 2009 | Go to article overview

Effect of Work Intensification and Work Extensification on Women's Health in the Globalised Labour Market


Lu, Jinky Leilanie, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

This study examined the association between labour intensification due to work intensification and work extensification and ill health in women in certain manufacturing work in the Philippines. Work intensification is defined as more workload for each worker, and work extensification as less deadtime or work rest and more overtime. The sample was 23 establishments-and 630 respondents. Workplace environment monitoring showed exposure to hazards such as noise, chemicals, poor ventilation, and poor illumination. The most prevalent illnesses and health problems were headache and coughs and colds. Results of focus group discussions showed adverse work conditions, hazard exposures among women workers, fast pace of work, close supervision, prevalent occupational illnesses, and management style that do not comply with the national work standards. The results indicate that the health issues of women workers depend on many factors, such as management and supervisory style, job autonomy, nature of task, and hazard exposures. This study resulted in three major analytic observations on the engagement of women workers in the new global labour market, the role of information technologies (IT) in women's work, and occupational illnesses caused by work intensification and work extensification.

Keywords: Globalised Labour, women's health, Philippines

Introduction

The present study investigates the impact of intensification and extensification of work on ill health among women workers in the Philippines. The study examined specific work conditions and health issues of women workers as a result of organizational structures and work policies arising from globalized labour market. Work intensification involves more workload for each individual worker and arises from overtime, lesser dead time, or shorter rest period. Labour extensification involves increasing overall effort required by workers over a given shift; examples include paid time between jobs, during machine breakdowns, or while waiting for supplies.

Since the mid 1980s, when the government began to liberalize the economy, globalization has had a major impact in the Philippines. Protective tariffs were reduced by as much as 15% from 1980 to 1986 and restrictions on repatriations of capital were removed. Economic liberalization continued and intensified a decade later as structural reforms in trade and industry, deregulation of goods and services, and privatization of government owned companies were carried out (Tuano, 2002)

The decline of state ownership of big enterprises and infrastructure was a direct result. Local industries were negatively affected by competition from cheap imports. Foreign-owned companies especially those within special export zones favored labour contractualisation (McGovern, 2007).

Export zones are special economic enclaves within the national market economy with special investment benefits given by the national government for foreign investors. Export zones are located in many developing countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Latin American nations (Rowbotham, et al., 1994). Some of the benefits given in export zones are exemption from duties, taxes or license fees on imports to the zone; the privilege of borrowing from national banks; reduction of or exemption from export taxes; exemption from minimum investment requirements; unrestricted repatriation of capital and profits; and the freedom to sell 30 percent of the annual output of the export processing zone (EPZ) firms in the local market (a means to avoid quota on imports). The export zones are also not required to comply with wage increases and other benefits when they can prove inability to comply.

In the Philippines, export zones were also covered with presidential decrees that enforced an immediate blanket on strikes and relieved employers of the obligation to pay overtime.

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Effect of Work Intensification and Work Extensification on Women's Health in the Globalised Labour Market
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