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  International Labour Organization 
Women swell ranks of working poor, says ILO
Lower wages, longer hours, hinder women's progress   
Friday 27 September 1996 (ILO/96/27)    
GENEVA (ILO News) - An international meeting on conditions of work
and employment in agriculture has called upon the International
Labour Organization to study the impact of globalization on the
sector, the role of multinational enterprises in agriculture, the
impact of trade liberalization on agricultural commodities and its
consequences for employment, food security and food quality
The call came at the Tripartite Meeting on Improving the Conditions
of Employment and Work of Agricultural Wage Workers, which
concluded its work today. Delegations representing employers,
governments and workers from 30 countries participated in the
week-long meeting at ILO headquarters in Geneva.  
The delegates also called for increased ratification and observance
of fundamental labour standards dealing with collective bargaining,
equal pay for equal work and the elimination of child labour.  
In a Resolution concerning future ILO activities in the field of
agriculture, the delegates cited progress that has been made in
some countries' agricultural sectors, "particularly as regards
growth, productivity, competitivity and improvements in working
They also resolved that "in the present situation of highly
competitive markets, agriculture must adopt modern methods of
production, be competitive and profitable" while stressing that
"governments must create conditions conducive to enterprise
development in order to stimulate employment."   
The delegates noted that the number of agricultural wage workers
was "rising in absolute terms and/or relative to the total
agricultural labour force in a number of countries", and that "the
number of women among them was on the rise in all regions."  
They pointed out that "in countries with high levels of
unemployment and underemployment, agricultural growth should aim to
expand employment opportunities and raise productivity." Trade
liberalization, they concluded, "can have positive and negative
impacts on agricultural production and on working and living
conditions of agricultural wage workers."   
The delegates singled out free and voluntary collective bargaining
regarding terms and conditions of employment and work between
employers and workers" as often being "essential to improving the
situation of agricultural wage labourers," and called upon
Governments to "facilitate collective bargaining."    
To improve the conditions of women workers "Governments should seek
to adopt and enforce legislation pertaining to equal remuneration
for work of equal value and to equality of opportunity and
treatment in respect of employment and occupation." The delegates
called for "education and training opportunities for women
agricultural workers enabling them to upgrade their skills and seek
higher employment opportunities."   
Child labour, the delegates agreed, is detrimental to the health,
education and physical development of children. Citing the
importance of sustained economic growth and universal education for
both boys and girls, they said that "The ultimate goal should be
the complete elimination of all forms of child labour", while
calling for "the immediate and unconditional abolition of the
employment of children in slave-like and bonded conditions and in
hazardous work."  
They agreed that Governments should ratify the Minimum Wage Fixing
Machinery (Agriculture) Convention, 1951 (No. 99), which provides
for joint determination of wages by employers' and workers'
organizations or decided by the State, "in an appropriate form,
after consultation with the most representative organizations of
employers and workers". They also agreed that "Minimum wages should
be periodically adjusted taking into account changes in the cost of
living as well as other economic conditions to prevent increases in
the levels of unemployment and inflation."  
On occupational health and safety issues, the delegates concluded
that "Governments should seek to periodically review and update
legislation and regulations ... in agriculture." Along with
improved information on potential risks to agricultural workers'
health and safety, the delegates highlighted the need for "proper
registration and labelling of chemical formulations." They said
that "The labelling of products, in language, style and form,
should be accessible to workers using the products in the fields.
The cooperation of chemical manufacturers should be sought to
facilitate this information. Regulations on the production, export
and import of chemical formulations used in agriculture should be
brought in line with international recommendations."  
The Committee adopted a Resolution calling on all member States "to
ratify and implement existing Conventions concerning fundamental
human rights."   Endnote    
They also called on member States "to consider ratifying and
implementing the following Conventions that are of particular
significance to the agricultural sector: the Plantations
Convention, 1958 (No. 110); the Rural Workers' Organizations
Convention, 1975 (No. 141); the Right of Association (Agriculture)
Convention, 1921 (No. 11); the Labour Inspection (Agriculture)
Convention, 1969 (No. 129); the Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery
(Agriculture) Convention, 1851 (No. 99) and the Minimum Age
(Agriculture) Convention, 1921 (No. 10); the Migration for
Employment Convention (Revised) 1949 (No. 97); the Migrant Workers
(Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (no. 143)."  
The ILO, founded in 1919, includes 174 member States.   
Endnote :   
The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize
Convention, 1948 (No. 87); the Right to Organize and Collective
Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98); the Forced Labour Convention,
1930 (No. 29); the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No.
105); the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100); the
Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958
For further information, please contact Bureau of Public
Information (PRESSE) at Tel: 41-22-799-7940 or Fax: 41-22-788-3894. 
Copyright - 1996 International Labour Organization (ILO)   
 This page was created by BB. It was approved by KMK. It was last
updated on 27 September, 1996.
Women swell ranks of working poor, says ILO. Lower wages, longer
hours, hinder women's progress   
Tuesday 30 July 1996 (ILO/96/25)   
GENEVA (ILO News) Women work longer hours and are paid on average
25 percent less than men, but have made significant gains in
entering formerly male-dominated jobs in the global labour force,
says a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO). 
"The bottom line is that while more and more women are working, the
great majority of them are simply swelling the ranks of the working
poor," says Ms. Lin Lim, author of the ILO report. "Women's
economic activities remain highly concentrated in low-wage,
low-productivity and precarious forms of employment."   
Women make up nearly 70 percent of the world's poor and 65 percent
of the world's illiterate.   
The ILO report, More & Better Jobs for Women An Action Guide, finds
that more than 45 percent of all the world's women (aged 15 to 64)
are now economically active. In industrialized countries, more than
half of all women work, compared to roughly 37 percent of Western
European women and 30 percent of US women just two decades ago.   
The main findings of the report include:   
The majority of women earn on average about three-fourths of the
male wage for thesame work, outside the agricultural sector, in
both developed and developing countries; the gap is not decreasing; 
Women's unemployment rates run from 50 to 100 percent greater than
for men in many industrialized countries;   
Women hold less than 6 percent of senior management jobs in the
In the 28 countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) the largest members of which are the United
States, Canada, Japan and Western Europe the number of women in the
labour force grew by more than twice the rate for men between 1980
and 1990;   
In 1980-90, women made up 7 million out of 8 million new labour
force entrants in Western Europe;   
In East and South-East Asia, women provide up to 80 percent of
workers in export processing zones;   
In developed countries, women work at least two hours per week more
than men, and often five to ten hours more per week;   
In developing countries, women spend 31-42 hours per week in unpaid
work (in the home), while men spend between 5 and 15 hours in
unpaid work.  
Michel Hansenne, Director-General of ILO, describes the growing
contribution of women to the global workforce in this way: "Their
relatively cheap labour has represented the cornerstone of
export-oriented industrialization and international competitiveness
for many developing countries."   
The report points out that women have made some real gains,
especially in industrialized economies.   
These gains include:   
A strong trend upward in the representation of women in managerial
and administrative jobs, and in professional and technical jobs,
especially in developed countries, Latin America and the Caribbean; 
Some women have breached the glass ceiling to occupy top level
Women are forming their own businesses at a greater rate than men
in the United States;   
Pay equity laws between men and women have been adopted by many
countries in both the developed and developing regions;   
Improvements in working conditions including child-care services
and family-friendly workplaces and in social protection for some
female workers have helped them reconcile work and family
More women are joining trade unions and unions are increasingly
sensitive to gender issues;   
Collective bargaining has helped promote gender equality in many
Nonetheless, Hansenne says, "Equality of opportunity and treatment
for women in employment has yet to be achieved anywhere in the
Unemployment also a greater problem for women   
The global economic recession of the early 1990s led to
disproportionately high levels of female unemployment in most
countries and regions of the world. In about two-thirds of
industrial countries, unemployment rates for women are from 50 to
100 percent higher than for men. In Eastern Europe, unemployment
rates are also higher for women, except for Hungary, Lithuania and
Available data on open unemployment also show considerably higher
female jobless rates than male rates in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin
America, the Caribbean and several Asian countries.   
Women will participate in the labour force in about the same
percentage rates as men in many industrialized countries by the
year 2000. In developing countries, women make up just 31 percent
of the labour force, much less than in industrialized countries,
but their participation is rising.   
In Eastern Europe female participation has been traditionally high,
more than 50 percent, and has remained so despite the economic
transition underway. In South-East Asia, the percentage of working
women climbed to 54 percent from 49 percent, and in the Caribbean
to 49 percent from 38 percent. In South Asia, 44 percent of women
work, compared to only 25 percent two decades ago.   
Even in regions where female participation in the workforce is
comparatively low, the percentage increases are great: in Latin
America it went from 22 to 34 percent and in Northern Africa from
8 to 21 percent. In regional terms, only the Gulf States continue
to resist the trend toward increased female employment, however the
number of female migrant workers to these countries is increasing
The survey also finds that much of the growth in the women's labour
force in industrialized nations has come in part-time employment.
Women make up between 65 percent and 90 percent of all part-timers
in OECD countries.   
Outside of the OECD, women tend to be relegated to the informal
sector (low-wage jobs in unregulated activities), rather than to
part-time work. For example, in Africa, more than a third of women
in non-agricultural activities work in the informal sector, with
the rates going as high as 72 percent in Zambia and 65 percent in
the Gambia. Elsewhere, the percentage of women active in the
informal sector totals more than 80 percent in Lima, Peru, 65
percent in Indonesia and 41 percent in the Republic of Korea.   
Discrimination starts early   
Discrimination in education constitutes one of the main causes of
female poverty and underemployment. Women account for more than
two-thirds of the nearly 1 billion adult illiterates. In Benin,
Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, and
Togo in Africa, and Afghanistan and Nepal in Asia, more than 90
percent of women aged 25 and up have never been to school. Of the
approximately 100 million children in the world without any access
to primary education, 60 percent are girls.   
Even where education and vocational training are available, many
institutions "continue to offer stereotyped 'feminine' skills for
girls," such as typing, nursing, sewing, catering and waitressing
as opposed to scientific or technical knowledge, the report says.
In poorer countries, girls are much more likely than boys to
interrupt or halt their schooling in order to tend to domestic
tasks, in spite of the obvious benefits of increased education for
"Each additional year of schooling has been shown to raise a
woman's earnings by about 15 percent, compared with 11 percent for
a man, to reduce fertility rates by 5-10 percent and to avert 43
infant deaths per 1,000 educated girls," says Ms. Lim.   
Gender discrimination, the report says, extends from education to
the workplace. Among the most glaring forms of discrimination in
job markets: "unequal hiring and promotion standards, unequal
access to training and retraining, unequal access to credit and
other productive resources, unequal pay for equal work,
occupational segregation and unequal participation in economic
decision making."   
A striking example of the concentration of women in low-paying
sectors is found in the garment producing industry, where more than
two-thirds of the entire global workforce is female and which
absorbs almost one-fifth of the female labour force in
Even in better-paid sectors, women work at the lower end of the pay
scale. Overall, nearly two-thirds of women employed in
manufacturing are categorized as "labourers, operators and
production workers; only 5 percent are in professional and
technical, and 2 percent in administrative and managerial
In service sectors, where most women work, they continue to be
clustered at or near the bottom rungs of the employment ladder and
pay scales.   
More work for less pay: feminine jobs   
Occupational segregation on the basis of gender remains high for
all regions of the world, irrespective of development levels. The
report cites data for some 500 non-agricultural occupations in the
United States, United Kingdom and France showing that approximately
45 percent of the labour force is organized around gender-dominated
occupations in which either women or men make up at least 80
percent of the workforce. In Japan, women make up 95 percent of the
workforce in such occupations as day-care, hospital attendants and
nurses, kindergarten teachers, housekeepers, maids and
"Not only do men and women have different occupations," says Ms.
Lim, "men commonly do work of higher pay and status; for example,
most school administrators and doctors are men, whereas most
teachers and nurses are women."   
In East and South-East Asia, women provide up to 80 percent of the
workforce in export processing zones. In Latin America and the
Caribbean, 71 percent of all female workers are concentrated in the
service sector, but the number of unrecorded female workers in
manufacturing is thought to be high. In Asia and Africa, most women
workers (more than 80 percent in sub-Saharan Africa) are found in
the agricultural sector where wages are generally among the lowest
and more than one-third of women in non-agricultural activities are
in the informal sector. In spite of women's preponderance in
agriculture, it is estimated that only 5 percent of rural credit
from multilateral banks ever reaches them.   
Women predominate in informal sector work, usually because it is
the only employment they can find and where incomes are often at
poverty levels. In the Dominican Republic, for example, 70 percent
of women in the informal sector earn incomes below the poverty
In all regions of the world, the report notes, females work longer
hours for lower wages than their male counterparts, "earning only
between 50 to 80 percent of men's wages worldwide." In developed
countries, women work at least two hours more weekly than men,
though 5 to 10 hours more per week is not unusual. In Australia,
Canada and Germany, the hourly work loads of men and women are
roughly equal, but in Italy women work 28 percent more than men, in
Austria 12 percent more and in France 11 percent. In Japan, the
time women spend on unpaid work is nine times greater than that of
In Kenya, women devote up to ten times more time to domestic tasks
than men. In India, women and girls spend at least 20 hours more
per week on domestic work. Family responsibilities, the report
notes, nearly always weigh more heavily on women than on men, "even
for the relatively small numbers of women whose education and
skills qualify them for higher-level jobs."   
Improving jobs and working conditions for women   
The report, issued as an ILO follow-up to the Fourth World
Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and the World Summit for Social
Development (Copenhagen, 1995), highlights the need for action:
"Increasing employment opportunities for women is not sufficient;
there must be action to improve the terms and conditions of such
employment." Steps to enhancing the quality of employment for women
need to take account of the following issues, all of which are
covered by international labour standards:   
Enforcing the principle of "comparable worth by providing equal pay
for work of equal value. This is necessary in order to eliminate
male-female wage differences within industries and to reduce the
large differences between "female" jobs and "male" jobs in the
highly gender segregated world of work.   
Improving occupational safety and health for women workers, in
order to alleviate and eliminate environmental and workplace
hazards, especially those affecting pregnant and lactating women,
as well as measures to reduce occupational stress from, among other
factors, "long hours, monotonous assembly line tasks and sexual
Measures to reduce labour market vulnerability, especially to
improve security in informal or atypical forms of work. Women often
have to resort to non-standard employment, involving for example
part-time or homework, due to the need to combine work and domestic
responsibilities. The risk is that such forms of employment are
precarious and not covered by legal and social-security systems.  

Guaranteeing freedom of association and the right to organize and
bargain collectively; for women in the formal sector, collective
action, particularly through trade unions is crucial and collective
bargaining needs to take greater account of feminine issues. For
women in non-formal, atypical or rural employment, grassroots
mobilization and organization is an important form of empowerment. 
Appropriate labour market regulation, which would take account of
women's need for flexibility, special protective measures in such
areas as maternity protection and child care and steps toward
eliminating pervasive inequality in opportunities and treatment
between men and women workers.  
Providing more and better jobs for women will also involve a
conducive macro-economic environment, including accurate and
realistic data, in order to develop coherent and effective
gender-sensitive policies. Policies need to consider the legal
framework, enforcement mechanisms, cultural attitudes and public
awareness. Effective implementation of these policies will require
a supportive legal framework, strong enforcement mechanisms and
widespread public awareness and support.   
For further information, please contact Bureau of Public
Information (PRESSE) at Tel: 41-22-799-7940 or Fax: 41-22-788-3894. 
Copyright - 1996 International Labour Organization (ILO)  
 This page was created by MT. It was approved by KMK. It was last
updated on July 30, 1996.  
Pesticides and transport are major occupational hazards   
Monday 23 September 1996 (ILO/96/26)   
GENEVA (ILO News) - Of the approximately 1.1 billion workers active
in agricultural production worldwide, nearly half are in wage
labour. Many millions of these workers earn wages that place them
on the bottom rung of the rural poverty ladder and even below the
minimum subsistence level - in spite of rising agricultural trade
and labour productivity worldwide, says the International Labour
Office in a report issued today   Endnote 1  .  
In addition to a high incidence of poverty, the working lives of
agricultural wage earners are "characterised by casual forms of
labour, precarious working conditions and little or no social
protection", says the ILO report. Transport conditions for workers
to and from the fields are often "appalling". Exposure to
pesticides and agro-chemicals constitutes a major occupational
Significantly, the share of women in agricultural employment is
increasing, with women now accounting for 20-30 per cent of total
agricultural wage employment. Child labour is pervasive, amounting
in some developing countries to as much as 30 per cent of the
The report, Wage workers in agriculture: Conditions of employment
and work, was prepared for a tripartite meeting of employer, worker
and government representatives which will convene in Geneva from 23
to 27 September, 1996 to discuss problems in the sector and explore
The report points out that while international trade in
agricultural commodities expanded by roughly 3 per cent annually
throughout the last decade, agricultural wage workers shared
unevenly in the growth. A sample survey of 45 countries from all
regions shows that real wages declined for agricultural workers
over the last decade in 18 of the countries, with no real-wage
changes in 8 others. Moreover, the declines outnumbered the
increases: "only six of the 45 countries (Argentina, Colombia,
Cameroon, Nigeria, Philippines and Sweden) show strong real wage
increases of 30 per cent or more, whereas 13 countries show a drop
of 30 per cent or more." Among the major elements affecting real
wage levels in agriculture, the ILO cites: "agricultural growth,
labour force supply, non-farm employment, minimum wages (when they
exist) and food prices".  
Agricultural wage workers, the report indicates, spend as much as
70 per cent of their incomes for food. A subsistence wage, defined
as an hourly wage sufficient to buy 1 kilo of the lowest-priced
staple cereal, was found lacking in 40 per cent of sample
countries. This means, in effect, that the working time required to
obtain this kilo of cereal "ranges from less than 5 minutes (in
Sweden) to over six hours (in Central African Republic), with the
median working time being 37 minutes, which corresponds to the
position of India". In five countries, mostly in Asia and Africa,
"the working time is over 3 hours."  
A separate survey, based on data from 12 developing countries with
large rural populations, shows that in only three countries (Egypt,
Morocco and Pakistan) did poverty affect less than 25 per cent of
the rural population. In five countries (Brazil, Guatemala,
Honduras, Philippines and Zambia) over 50 per cent of all rural
workers were below the poverty line. However, in all cases, the
incidence of poverty among agricultural wage labour is higher than
overall rural poverty.   
Indonesia and the Philippines, saw a decline in the incidence of
rural poverty and poverty among wage labourers. However, the
decline of poverty among wage labourers in both countries is "less
than for the rural population as a whole". Of the 12 countries half
display an incidence rate above 49 per cent, "suggesting that on
average close to one in two wage labourers in agriculture is in
poverty."  In addition to receiving low wages, agricultural
labourers are frequently underemployed, working only an average of
175 days annually, leaving them idle approximately one-third of the
work year, with little income to sustain them between seasons.
While in employment, hours of work tend to be long, often over 45
hours weekly, and dangerous. Agricultural labourers suffer markedly
higher rates of accident and fatal injury than workers in other
sectors, with very little recourse to compensation. Fewer than "20
per cent of the world's agricultural wage earners are covered by
one or more of the nine contingencies of the ILO's Social Security
(Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952, (No. 102) today   Endnote 2 
, the report notes.  
Pesticide poisoning is a particularly prevalent danger, accounting,
in some countries for as much as "14 per cent of all occupational
injuries in the agricultural sector and 10 per cent of all fatal
injuries." In several countries the fatal accident rate in
agriculture is double the average for all other industries, with
agro-chemicals accounting for a large number of the accidents. 
Although reliable data on pesticide poisonings are difficult to
obtain, due to deficiencies in reporting systems, a detailed survey
of one producer country, Costa Rica, suggests that pesticide
poisonings affect 4.5 per cent of the agricultural workforce
annually. Nor are occupational hazards, including pesticides,
limited to developing countries: the United States National Safety
Council has consistently ranked agriculture among the three most
hazardous occupations in the country and the United States'
Environmental Protection Agency "estimates at between 20,000 and
300,000 the annual number of acute pesticide poisoning incidents
among agricultural workers."   
The report highlights the difficult conditions of work; notably in
terms of transport to and from the fields, a problem that is
particularly acute due to the migratory, seasonal nature of much
agricultural work: "In many countries workers in agriculture are
transported over long distances from their living quarters to
places of work ... Conditions are inhuman when large number of
workers are packed in open trucks and vehicles never intended for
the use of human passengers"... "Weight limitations are often
disregarded and safety considerations ignored. Numerous road
accidents have been reported.   
The ILO report cites "more humane and safer conditions of
transport" as being in the interest of all parties and recommends
"better equipped vehicles to reduce worker stress and fatigue and
hence improve the quality and productivity of work." The report
underlines the need for "precise legislation setting out the safety
and technical specifications for the transport of workers." as well
as stricter observance of collective bargaining agreements on
The ILO has been concerned with the situation of workers in
agriculture since its inception in 1919. The report proposes a
seven-point strategy to build on its previous work in addressing
problems in the sector, which, "if adopted comprehensively, could
help to improve employment prospects, working conditions and income
levels for two-fifths of the world's labour force".  
The recommendations include:  
         Strong labour-intensive growth in agriculture stimulated
by investments in infrastructure to generate more employment in and
around agriculture;  
         A major drive in support of more and broader collective
         A sustained effort to improve working conditions, from
transport to occupational safety and health, including a much
reduced incidence of child labour;  
         An employment guarantee scheme of, for example, 80 to 100
days of employment per year during the low season;  
         Effective application of basic labour standards; and  
         Extension of basic social security benefits to
agricultural wage workers.  
The regional distribution of the economically active population in
agriculture is dominated by Asia, which accounts for almost 80 per
cent of the world's total, followed by Africa (14.3 per cent),
Latin America (3.6 per cent) and the rest of the world (3.7 per
cent). Two countries alone, China and India, account for over 60
per cent of the world's agricultural labour force, and 78 per cent
of the total for Asia. Nigeria has the largest agricultural labour
force in Africa, equal to 17.5 per cent of the region's total and
2.5 per cent of the world total.  
Though the workforce in agriculture is forecast to grow over the
next decade, only three regions of the world - sub-Saharan Africa,
South Asia and the Middle East/North Africa - are expected to see
increases in their agricultural workforces beyond 2010 by,
respectively, 47 per cent, 33 per cent and 14 per cent. The reduced
agricultural growth and subsequent decline of the agricultural
labour force in East Asia, particularly in China, will decisively
influence the world trend.  
The nations of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are
forecast to see a particularly large decrease in agricultural wage
employment, with the percentage of the agricultural workforce
dropping from nearly 18 per cent of the active population in 1990
to approximately 9 per cent by 2010. In Western Europe the
agricultural workforce is expected to shrink to less than 3 per
cent of the total workforce by 2010, and in North America to just
over 1 per cent.   
The ILO highlights the fact that a strong agricultural sector is
often a linchpin in the development process: "Agriculture is an
engine of growth in the early stages of economic development ...
Although the agricultural sector gives way to higher productivity
sectors, the successful transition to higher levels of development
is heavily dependent on how the agricultural transition is
managed." A strong agricultural sector feeds into strong industrial
development, notably via foreign exchange earnings, domestic income
redistribution via wages and increased food supplies, which
releases workers from agricultural to industry.   
Endnote 1   
Wage workers in agriculture: Conditions of employment and work.
Report for discussion at the Tripartite Meeting on Improving the
Conditions of Employment and Work of Agricultural Wage Workers in
the Context of Economic Restructuring. ISBN 92-2-110126-6.
International Labour Office, Geneva, 1996.   
Endnote 2   
Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102),
namely medical care, sickness and maternity benefits, family
benefits, unemployment benefits, employment injury, invalidity and
survivors' benefits, and old-age benefits.   
For further information, please contact Bureau of Public
Information (PRESSE) at Tel: 41-22-799-7940 or Fax: 41-22-788-3894. 
Copyright - 1996 International Labour Organization (ILO)  
 This page was created by BB. It was approved by KMK. It was last
updated on 23 September, 1996.
Income inequality and poverty pose major challenges   
Monday 14 October 1996 (ILO/96/31)  
GENEVA (ILO News) - A comprehensive review of South Africa's
labour-market and economic developments Endnote suggests that the
country's rate of unemployment, which is often cited as being the
highest in the world, is probably much lower than previous
estimates indicate.   
According to research published by the International Labour Office
in Geneva, the actual rate of unemployment in South Africa may be
as much as one-third lower than stated figures. The review, which
covers all the major industrial sectors in the country, also
concludes that South Africa's labour market "is highly flexible by
international standards."   
The ILO study says that while unemployment is "serious in South
Africa ... it is only one dimension of the labour market crisis
facing the country". Poverty and inequality, the authors underline,
"are problems that have to be addressed with at least as much force
as unemployment."   
Prepared at the request of the South African Government, the
results of the study were recently presented to the Cabinet and to
President Nelson Mandela. The ILO research highlights the major
labour market challenges that must be met in order to ensure
economic growth and social stability, including overcoming income
inequality, reducing unemployment and boosting industrial
Guy Standing, an economist and the chief coordinator of the ILO
report, cautions against the tendency to overestimate unemployment
rates, which, he warns "could fuel labour market interventions that
focus largely or exclusively on reducing unemployment at the risk
of worsening the problems of poverty and income inequality."
According to Standing, the results shows "that many of the poorest
in South Africa are nominally employed," and that "sensible
redistribution is the key to overcoming the political, social and
economic legacy of apartheid."   
The report attributes the uncertainty over the extent of
unemployment to inadequate and sometimes outdated statistics. Much
labour-market data are based on census and household surveys
conducted prior to 1995 and are likely to "have contained an
undercount of various forms of economic and social activity," due,
in part, to the political regime that prevailed in the country.   
Analysis of available data shows that the level of employment has
been underestimated, as has the level of employment growth since
1994, when the South African economy began to grow, by about 4 per
cent annually. However serious the actual rate of unemployment may
be, the ILO report says that the frequently cited figure of 33% is
probably exaggerated and that 20% is probably closer to reality.
Other agencies have cited unemployment rates for South Africa which
range as high as 46%.   
The study concludes that income distribution in South Africa,
"remains among the most unequal in the world." It notes that
"poverty and inequality have four outstanding characteristics -
race, gender, region and type of area." While the wealthiest South
Africans continue to be white urban dwellers and the poorest tend
to be black, rural dwellers, inter-racial inequalities have
stabilised in recent years, whereas intra-racial inequalities are
widening. Rural women are a particularly vulnerable group of poor
The report also cites comparatively poor labour productivity in
South Africa by international standards, but says that the problem
is often attributable to outdated management and organisational
structures and not necessarily high wages. High non-wage labour
costs are also cited as contributing factors. Working weeks in
South Africa are long by international standards - over 48 hours a
week on average - and most firms operate on only one shift.   
Among the report's recommendations is reduced work hours and
increased shiftwork, which should be encouraged by higher overtime
rates, not just by regulations. Though the report cites data
suggesting that shiftwork is on the increase, it says that "South
African industry has a long way to go to attain the level of
shiftworking found in South-east Asian economies." Foreign firms
operating in South Africa "were twice as likely" as domestic firms
"to be operating three (or four shifts) per day ... And they were
more than twice as likely to be operating 15 or more shifts a
The report cites a lack of training, rigid job structures and
outmoded job-grading and wages systems as posing problems for many
South African firms. It emphasizes the need for "voice mechanisms"
to facilitate collective bargaining and to evolve industrial
policies that can reduce poverty, eliminate the wide income gaps
and strengthen the economic foundation of a new, multi-racial South
The report warns that the productivity problems combined with the
unjustified reputation of South Africa as allegedly being plagued
by "the world's highest unemployment" risks undermining
international confidence and obscuring the main labour market
problems, which stem from pervasive wage and income inequality and
inadequate mechanisms for industrial relations, including
tripartite negotiations and collective bargaining. The report also
concludes that there are good reasons for believing that the South
African economy will exhibit strong growth, as long as
macro-economic policy does not become too deflationary and that the
policy emphasis in the country works to strengthen investor, worker
and consumer confidence.   
Restructuring the labour market: The South African challenge. An
ILO Country Review by Guy Standing, John Sender and John Weeks.
ISBN 92-2-109513-4. International Labour Office. Geneva, 1996.   
  For further information, please contact Bureau of Public
Information (PRESSE) at Tel: 41-22-799-7940 or Fax: 41-22-788-3894. 
Copyright - 1996 International Labour Organization (ILO)   
 This page was created by BB. It was approved by KMK. It was last
updated on 14 October, 1996. 

Monday 28 October 1996 (ILO/96/33)  
GENEVA (ILO News) - The geographical distribution of production in
the textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industries has changed
dramatically in the past 25 years resulting in sizeable employment
losses in Europe and North America and important gains in Asia and
other parts of the developing world. This trend, says the
International Labour Office in a new report (  Endnote 1 )  has
been accompanied by a parallel shift of production from the formal
to the informal sector in many countries with generally negative
consequences on wage levels and conditions of work.  
The available evidence, however, also suggests that globalization
has led to a net gain in the level of worldwide employment and that
the informal sector promotes "a growing volume of employment in
developing countries, especially in clothing and footwear". And, as
the report also points out, employment in formal sector
establishments has changed very little since 1980, while real
earnings have in fact risen in several industrialized countries.  
The total number of TCF workers in the formal sector is estimated
at 23.6 million worldwide. "No one knows just how many work in the
informal sector but the figure may be five to ten times as high",
says Mr. Kari Tapiola, Deputy Director-General of the ILO.   
Written by staff from the ILO Sectoral activities department, the
report will serve as a basis for discussions by participants in a
"Tripartite Meeting on the Globalization in the Footwear, Textiles
and Clothing Industries" held in Geneva from 28 October to 1
November. Delegates to the meeting represent the governments,
employers' organizations and trade unions from 34 leading TCF
producing, exporting and importing countries.  
The meeting will discuss labour and employment issues relevant to
the TCF industries and is expected to provide guidance for national
and international action to promote employment, basic workers'
rights and sound working conditions throughout the sector.   
Much of production capacity and jobs have shifted to the developing
world. In the twenty years from 1970 to 1990, the number of TCF
workers increased by 597 percent in Malaysia; 416 percent in
Bangladesh; 385 percent in Sri Lanka; 334 percent in Indonesia;
271 percent in the Philippines; and 137 percent in Korea.  
China now employs 5.3 million workers, the most in the world, an
increase of some 2 million workers since 1980.   
During the same 20-year period, employment in the developed world
declined sharply. The number of TCF workers has decreased by 58
percent in Germany; United Kingdom - 55 percent;    
France - 49 percent; and the United States - 31 percent. The US
still employs 1.6 million workers, down from 2.5 million in 1980. 

The decline has been even more severe in Northern Europe. In the 10
years between 1980 and 1990, Finland lost 73 percent of its TCF
jobs. Sweden and Norway lost 65 percent.  
While the evidence presented in the report "contradicts - for the
formal sector - the hypothesis that globalization leads to real
earnings compression in the higher-income countries", it also
points to a "widening earnings gap between TCF workers in higher-
and lower-income countries."  
For example, in 1992 the average hourly labour costs (wages and
social charges) in the textile, apparel and leather industries
were: Germany - $18.40; Italy - $15.70; France - $13.40; Japan -
$10.30; Canada - $10.50; US - $10; Spain - $9.70.  
This compares with: Mexico - $1.70; Hong Kong - $3.70; Korea -
$3.80; Taiwan, China - $4.20.  
In response to fast-changing demand patterns, the TCF industries
have witnessed a gradual "shift of full-time in-plant jobs to
part-time and temporary jobs and, especially in clothing and
footwear, increasing recourse to home work and small shops" notes
the ILO report. Wages of homeworkers are almost universally based
on the piece rate system and tend to be substantially lower than
for equivalent factory workers. The first, and to date only,
international Convention (No. 177)promoting the rights of
homeworkers was adopted by the ILO in June 1996.   
"Child labour", says the report, "is still very much a reality in
the TCF sectors" and has recently increased as a result of the
growth of the informal sector and homework. Of late however, rising
pressure from consumer groups, but also from governments, trade
unions, employers' organizations and NGOs has begun to reverse this
trend. Among other significant measures: the adoption of "Codes of
ethics" by several large multinational enterprises such as Levi's,
The Gap, Reebok and others.  
In the clothing industry, the number of clandestine workshops has
grown exponentially in recent years. Few pay any respect to labour
legislation and many hire illegal migrants. Many are involved in
counterfeiting products from famous trade marks, an activity
estimated to account for more the 5 percent of world trade in
The impact of the globalization of TCF differs according to country
and the individual industry.  
At present, more than 60 percent of world clothing exports are
manufactured in developing countries. Asia is the major world
supplier today, producing more than 32 percent of the world's
clothing exports.   
This emergence as the major world supplier has occurred in three
successive waves of production.   
During the first wave of production, the Republic of Korea,
Singapore, the territory of Hong Kong and Taiwan achieved excellent
results within their own borders, but then began to cut down
production and invest heavily in other least-cost countries. As a
result, between 1985 and 1990, the production of the Philippines,
Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia increased greatly and led the
world market in exports.  
These countries have in turn begun to invest or redistribute part
of their production to a third wave of countries such as
Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and more recently Laos, Nepal and
Viet Nam.  
China however, has become the leading world producer and supplier
of clothing - currently generating almost 13 percent of the world
supply - without the benefit of outsourcing from other countries.
Instead, the country has thrived under a government policy geared
toward developing a clothing and textiles industry open to the
outside world.  
On the American continent, NAFTA has made Mexico a privileged
supplier of clothing to Canada and the United States - the leading
purchaser of clothing, importing 24 percent of the world's supply. 

In addition, foreign investors who had anticipated the signing of
the free trade agreement, have built up the clothing industry in
Mexico which, with its 8,000 clothing enterprises, is in a strong
position against its Latin American competitors.   
In Central and Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania
and the Czech Republic are gradually becoming important suppliers
to the European market.  
Each country has tended to specialize in a specific range of
products and their volume of exports to the OECD countries has been
steadily growing since the middle of the 1980s ($2.4 million in
1987; $5.2 million in 1991).  
Since 1991, the place left empty by the former Yugoslavia has
prompted foreign investors and entrepreneurs to shift their
activities to other countries. Croatia, the Russian Federation,
Slovenia and Ukraine have thus become host countries for the
relocated activities of European clothing industrialists.  
In several instances, ultra-modern factories capable of holding
their own against their most successful Western counterparts have
been constructed to ensure that they can produce articles complying
with European quality standards.  
Morocco, Mauritius, Tunisia and more recently Madagascar, have
become important clothing producers which export most of their
production to industrialized countries. African countries as a
whole, however, have been little affected by the globalization of
the TCF industries.  
The biggest changes in the textile industry occurred in the 1960s
when new production centres began rapidly springing up in Asia.  
Many of these centres opened first to service the less
capital-intensive clothing industry, then used the export earnings
from these products to set up their own textiles production.   
Other developing countries entered the market with investments from
multinational enterprises.  
As a result of new production centres, the share of textiles from
developing countries increased dramatically throughout the 1970s.
The production of certain fibres by these countries increased by
nearly 300 percent, to account for more than 21 percent of the
world's supply by 1980.  
During the past two decades, textile production in Asia has forged
further ahead at an average increase of 3.6 percent per year. By
comparison, industrialized countries have only increased production
an average of 0.2 percent per year over the same period.   
Despite the tendency towards relocation, industrialized countries
still lead in the worldwide production of textiles, due to their
great strides in modernizing the production process.   
In 1990, Germany was still the main world exporter of textiles,
producing 12 percent of world exports in value. Italy was second,
producing 8.6 percent of world exports. Four other industrialized
countries - Belgium (5.7 percent), France (5.5 percent), Japan
(5.3 percent) and the United States (4.5 percent) - were in the
list of the 10 major world exporters.  
The other major exporters were in Asia. The territory of Hong Kong
ranked third with 7.4 percent of the value of world exports,
followed by China in fourth place with 6.5 percent, Taiwan in sixth
place with 5.7 percent, and the Republic of Korea in seventh place
with 5.6 percent.  
The footwear and clothing industries are similar in structure and
share many of the characteristics of production and trade. Most of
the countries that have emerged as successful producers and
exporters of garments have also become important in footwear.  
Among the exceptions, Brazil and Mexico have become key players in
footwear, but much less in clothing. A few other countries - such
as Singapore - are major producers of garments but not footwear.  
Almost all of the higher-cost countries have seen their footwear
production fall. In the United States, the industry has declined -
since the late 1970s - more than in any other industrialized
nation, although footwear production in France, Germany and the
United Kingdom has declined significantly in the ensuing years.   
Production has also declined, albeit more slowly, in major Southern
European producer countries - since 1985 in Italy, 1988 in Spain,
and 1991 in Portugal.  
As in the clothing and textile industries, footwear production has
shifted largely to developing countries capable of producing large
shares of the world's supply at far less cost.   
In 1992, for example, 63.2 percent of the world's total pairs of
shoes were produced in Asia and the Middle East, even though these
regions accounted for only 43.5 percent of shoe consumption.  
In contrast, North and Central America, which produced only 6.4
percent of the world's shoes, consumed 20.6 percent.   
The countries of Western Europe produced 11.7 percent and consumed
18.2 percent of the global shoe production.  
IN THE TCLF INDUSTRIES ( Endnote 2 ) , 1980-1993   
Country              %           Country           %

Finland            -71.7         Mauritius       344.6
Sweden             -65.4         Indonesia       177.4 
Norway             -64.9         Morocco         166.5 
Austria            -51.5         Jordan          160.8  

Poland             -51.0         Jamaica         101.7
Syria              -50.0         Malaysia        101.2
France             -45.4         Mexico           85.5
Hungary            -43.1         China            57.3
Netherlands        -41.7         Is. R. of Iran   34.0
United Kingdom     -41.5         Turkey           33.7  
New Zealand        -40.9         Philippines      31.8
Germany            -40.2         Honduras         30.5
Spain              -35.3         Chile            27.2
Australia          -34.7         Kenya            16.1
Argentina          -32.9         Israel           13.4
United States      -30.1         Venezuela         7.9

Endnote 1:    
Globalization of the footwear, textiles and clothing industries.
Report for discussion at the Tripartite Meeting on the
Globalization of the Footwear, Textiles and Clothing Industries:
Effects on Employment and Working Conditions. ISBN 92-2-110182-7.
International Labour Office, Geneva, 1996.   
Endnote 2 :   
Source: International Labour Office.   
Includes Leather, in addition to the Textile, Clothing and Footwear
industries discussed above.   
For further information, please contact Bureau of Public
Information (PRESSE) at Tel: 41-22-799-7940 or Fax: 41-22-788-3894. 
Copyright - 1996 International Labour Organization (ILO)   
 This page was created by BB. It was approved by KMK. It was last
updated on 28 October, 1996.
RRojas Research Unit/1996