During the 1980s new structures in the organisation of production and new global patterns of investment appeared. These have had significant consequences upon the lives of poor women in the Third World and in the First. The employers' drive for flexibility which new technology makes feasible has intensified pressure upon the working conditions of women. Women, significant in the emerging labour forces, are vulnerable both as unskilled cheap labour and because they tend to be marginal to existing forms of trade unionism. Structural changes in patterns of work and investment makes mobilisation through existing trade union models difficult, either because workers are in small units or because multinational capital, helped by governments who need investment, is able to prevent organisation.
Swasti Mitter describes how in response to these circumstances various efforts to find appropriate forms of resisting casualisation are beginning to emerge. These include attempts to organise women at work as well as efforts to gain access to social resources through action in communities.
These tentative strategies of survival and rebellion raise vital questions for the international trade union movement and for economic policy.
In the developed as well as in the developing world, women find it difficult to get core jobs in the mainstream economy that are adequately protected by a country's employment and labour legislation. The organised or the official sector-often described as the formal sector-is dominated by large-scale companies where it is easy to monitor the implementation of labour laws. The consequent obligation of the employers to pay women specific benefits, such as maternity benefits or child care in some countries, pushes up the cost of hiring women workers. Women's responsibilities at home, towards children and older relatives, increase