“Women’s progress in the workforce over the past 10 years has not meant greater access to quality jobs, nor has it brought an end to discrimination. Despite gains in some areas, women earn an average of just two-thirds of men’s wages, and they are often denied access to opportunities leading to the best jobs.”
~ Mary Chinery-Hesse, ILO Deputy Director-General, and leader of the ILO delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women.
In a press release issued by the International Labour Organisation in 1995, Ms Chinery-Hesse notes that; “while more women work outside the home, a greater percentage of women than ever before act as the sole breadwinners for their families, contributing to the feminization of poverty. “This cycle of poverty cannot be broken until women receive fair wages.”
Twenty-six years later, women continue to break barriers and make progress in the workforce while still fighting against the current and earning less than their male counterparts.
Women and girls disproportionately affected by poverty have little influence in the decisions that may affect their lives. As a result of their financial status, they stand to get less food and receive less education. This makes them dependent on others.
The 1995 International Labour Organisation press release also stated that; “Women make up a greater percentage of workers in “informal” and other precarious forms of employment, which tend to lie outside the purview of labour regulations and inspection, and are therefore more prone to exploitation. In the industrialised countries, between 65 and 90% of all part-time workers are women.”
Low-income class women face this exploitation twice. At their places of employment, they are often overexploited and underpaid, then they clock out at work and go home to their families, where they clock into their “second shift” for additional unpaid labour.
The power imbalance tends to subject these women to sexual and physical violence at home and at work, which may affect their physical and mental health, and eventually their general wellbeing. This vicious cycle continues, again influencing other areas of their lives, like being unable to make ends meet.
Upper and middle-class women have the privilege of outsourcing labour; a privilege that is considered progressive and feminist. While this may be true and the ability to share the responsibility of domestic work and caretaking expected of women by the patriarchy can be empowering, this labour is usually outsourced to poorer women who do the jobs under unfavourable to inhumane treatment.
The class divide is such that not all women face the same struggles. In July, Document Women covered the two-sided nature of oppression, this means that while all women face the hurdles set by the patriarchy, wealthier women can also be perpetrators of violence against their poorer counterparts.
The women who offer their services in domestic settings sometimes work round the clock where they live with their employers. They may not be entitled to defined vacation times and live their lives in servitude. In Nigeria, it has been observed that underaged children are engaged in what essentially amounts to slavery because of the capitalistic appeal of cheap labour.
Outsourced labour can only be considered “feminist” where workers are adequately compensated for their labour and where work conditions are devoid of exploitation.