The integration of the world economy, or economic globalization, has been an operating force for centuries. However, in recent times the effects of this phenomenon have become a major cause for debate. Economic globalization is characterized and supported by free trade, the transcending of ideas and business infrastructures across national boundaries, increased capital flows, advanced communication systems, and an increased interdependence of national economies. It is a result of increased access to information, technology, knowledge and opportunities. The debate surrounding globalization however centers on how this increased access manifests itself in different countries, particularly underdeveloped and developing nations. Proponents of globalization argue that it creates expanded channels for employment, promotes broader and more substantial economic growth, allows for higher incomes, and improves quality of life. Critics say, among other things, that while this may be true for some people, globalization is also functioning to marginalize underdeveloped countries and minority groups around the world. In the context of these two perspectives, I will examine a very important minority group who have, particularly over the past twenty years, become an increasingly important part of the labor force, women. In order to do this, I will first present some statistical data regarding women's participation in the labor force. This data will show that women indeed have been affected significantly by globalization. In addition I will present a more qualitative look at how globalization has affected the lives of women by concentrating on several specific examples of women's experiences in different countries.
This is a statistical overview of women in the workforce. Female participation in the workforce ranges widely from 60% in some industrialized countries to about 10% in North Africa and Western Asia, averaging at about 43% as of 2000. This means that an average of 43% of women in the world work. This level of female participation is significantly higher than it was 20 years ago (Table 1), and is expected to reach an average of 48% by the year 2010.
Table 1. Percentage of women that work
Year Percent of women who work
In the overall workforce, made up of approximately 2.5 billion people, approximately 40.6% of the workers are women and the remaining 59.4% are men . This percentage is also significantly higher than it was 20 years ago (Table 2).
Table 2. Percentage of women in the workforce.
Year Percent of women in workforce*
*total workforce includes men and women
As indicated by the figures presented above, women today make up a large portion of the workforce, nearly 41%. However while recent research shows that a small group of women have earnings on par with men, the overwhelming majority of the world's women continue to earn significantly less than men. Worldwide, women earn an average of 75% of men's pay. In some countries that number can be significantly lower or significantly higher. In Brazil women earn only 54% of what men receive while in Colombia women earn 85%. In Asia, women in Bangladesh earn as little as 42% of what men earn, while in Vietnam it's as high as 92% . What is interesting is that up until about 1970, women's average pay around the world remained stable at about 60% of male pay, and then in a period of only 10 years this figure jumped to 75% . This can be interpreted as a clear indicator that globalization, which began gaining tremendous speed in the mid-70's, played a major role in tightening the wage gap in developing countries. In addition to women earning less than men on average, they...