|Women Encounter Technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World (UNU, 1995, 356 pages)|
|7. Restructuring and retraining|
Canadian political economy tradition
The Canadian political economy tradition has its roots in left nationalist debates about the character of the Canadian state and its relationship to Canada's industrial base. Rianne Mahon made an important contribution from within this tradition by examining the role of the Canadian state in regulating textile imports in exchange for the sale of Canadian staple products and resources. She examined the process whereby Canadian textile capital became increasingly consolidated, so that only a few companies dominated the domestic market (Matron, 1984). More recently, the literature has shifted to an analysis of the government's role in helping to set the stage for intercontinental integration and rationalization of the major industries in which Canadian women are employed (Cohen, 1987). Thus far, little attention had been paid to the restructuring of Canadian garment capital, which is perceived to be scattered among small manufacturers with little political power. A labor-intensive industry, the garment industry has remained highly protected, with unions often allied with small manufacturers to save the industry from import penetration.
As this paper will demonstrate, the industry is in transition. Changes in the industry demand new strategies.
Labour process perspective
The labour process perspective has drawn attention to the political culture of work organization and the historical transformation of managerial control (Braverman, 1974; Burawoy, 1979; Edwards, 1979). The feminist contribution has been to extend the boundaries of workplace studies to understand the way that gender relations have transformed organizational theory and workplace struggles (eg., Cockburn, 1985 and Coyle, 1982 (England); Steedman, 1986 (Canada); Lamphere, 1979 (United States)). My own contribution has called for a new feminism that combines issues of class, gender and ethnicity. Based on a case study of a unionized garment factory, my earlier research examined women's double day of labour and the barriers to women's active participation in the union (Gannagé, 1986).
Global feminist perspective
The global feminist perspective focuses on global labour markets and the international division of labour. The unequal relationship between core and periphery countries is explained within the context of a global manufacturing system divided along gender and racial lines. Swasti Mitter (1986) is especially concerned with the world-wide subcontracting process made possible by new developments in technology and the mobility of capital within transnational enterprises. The increasing casualization and marginalization of women's work in the quasi-legal sector characterizes the fragmentation of work as capital moves operations from North to South (see also Nash and Fernandez-Kelly, 1983). Women's resistance through participation in non-governmental organizations is highlighted as a major catalyst for social change.
International labour studies
A newly emerging approach to labour studies examines work relations in both developing countries and the first world (Munck, 1988; Cohen, 1991). Recognizing that different historical patterns of industrial development have occurred, this approach analyses the labour process, the role of unions and the way in which the state has shaped workplace struggles. According to Elson (1991), male-biased approaches ignore gender relations, especially the role of women in the development process.
Each of these perspectives has been influential in shaping the discussion about the nature of industrial restructuring around the globe. In Canada, immigrant workers in the clothing industry are uniquely positioned because of their experience of two cultures across national boundaries, their history of struggle, and their spirit of survival in the face of tremendous difficulties created by the new industrial giants and their political representatives in government.