Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Women, Gender and Government Outsourcing in Comparative Perspectives

Academic journal article Wagadu: a Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies

Women, Gender and Government Outsourcing in Comparative Perspectives

Article excerpt

"It was women's labor, productive and reproductive, that was being relied on as corporations cut their male workforces and national governments slashed their welfare budgets...The managers of the global economy are making use not just of women's labor, but also of feminist ideology"

(Esther Eisenstein, 1999, p. 15 & p. 17).

Outsourcing is the policy that reformed the delivery of government services around the world since the 1970's. Since then, government outsourcing, or the process through which the state buys from private suppliers the works, goods and services it needs to fulfill its public mission, is on the rise mainly through legal reform worldwide. Although much attention has been given to the legal and institutional reform of government outsourcing worldwide, there is still no work that addresses the implications of the devolution of the state's responsibilities to private contractors on women's/gender issues. This special journal issue's aim is to initiate a conversation about government outsourcing policies and the ways in which they reshape gender relations today from an interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary perspective.

The outsourcing reforms were designed by a collaborative effort between the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT), which later became the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). According to Pomeranz, since 1961, one of OECD's major endeavors has been to review government procurement policies to give prominence to the outsourcing of services when he notes, "in late 1967, the OECD Secretariat was requested to prepare a text of 'guidelines' on government procurement" (1982, p. 137). The European Free Trade Association ministries prepared working papers on this topic and in 1969, the United States submitted a draft procurement guideline text to the Working Party (ibid., p. 140). Debates on the proposed tendering regulations were then moved to the multinational trade negotiation at the GATT round and in 1979 they turned into a code that had to be locally legalized. The new legal requirement on competitive tendering paved the way to New Public Management (henceforth NPM) principles worldwide.

When Pal (2012) argued that the OECD had been the major driver of the NPM, he focused primarily on the way in which one of its departments influenced the GATT 1979 negotiation where the government procurement code was defined. The first signatories of the government procurement code then agreed to a version that resulted from intense work at the OECD combining strategies for reforming public sectors (downsizing, flexibilization) with the regulation of government procurement in the form of outsourcing and competitive tendering. The long arm of the economic globalization that operated within countries' public sectors to reform the delivery of services relied on the Government Procurement Code (GPC), and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Hence, "between 1987 and 1996 the World Bank supported downsizing programs in no less than sixty-eight developing and transitional countries in the context of its ubiquitous 'structural adjustment' loans" (Nunberg, 1995; cf. McCourt, 2008). Since 1995, the year the GATS agreement was signed, several other transnational organizations joined in the project including the European Union (henceforth EU). Each country interested in allowing its exporters to compete over other governments' contracts had to translate the procurement agreement into a local tendering law. These domestic laws were applied to the procurement of commodities only. In 1995 the GATS forced governments to apply them to public services including water, electricity and transportation. But other services, gradually, were also reformed. In the areas of local municipalities, health, education and welfare services were opened up for competitive bidding. Today, there is no doubt that government outsourcing is one of the most important neoliberal reforms of the twentieth century globally. …

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