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close this bookWomen Encounter Technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World (UNU, 1995, 356 pages)
close this folder5. Changes in textiles
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentScope and methodology
View the documentTechnological and organizational developments
View the documentEmpirical evidence from country case studies
View the documentThe experience of Japan and the Asian NIEs
View the documentEmerging issues
View the documentNotes

Scope and methodology

Investment in industrial human capital can be an expensive and uncertain proposition, since there is a considerable gestation period before investment benefits can be realized. A longer-term development horizon is necessary to formulate appropriate strategies which could sustain and enhance the potential of the large female labour force which has recently emerged in the textile and garment industry. In order to grasp the present situation and predict what may occur in the future, the textile and garment industries have to be placed in a broader context of industrial development associated with technological and labour market restructuring. Empirical studies of industrial development in the Asian region have identified four development stages (see Table 5.1), characterized by changes in four parameters:

· natural and social resource endowments;
· the level of industrialization;
· technological capabilities and human resources; and
· government policy environment.3

Although the focus of the study is on technology, it is important to view all four parameters as interdependent variables which affect not only the overall industrialization process but also the development of industrial sectors and the position of women within them.

These phases do not inevitably succeed one other, but they can be recognized as common features of industrialization in the more advanced countries in the Asian region. The four-phase model provides a useful analytical tool to be applied to the empirical evidence presented in the study. In terms of their overall level of industrial development, Bangladesh would be in the first phase and Indonesia and Thailand in the second phase, with Thailand on the verge of transition into the third phase. Japan and the newly industrialized economies are in the third and fourth phase.

In the study, technology includes machinery and equipment, know-how or skills, information on new trends, and forms of organization. The role of women is considered in the light of a quantitative and qualitative assessment of women's participation in the production of textiles and garments, including where possible a discussion of the economic and social constraints which have produced gender bias. Due to the lack of data on women's contribution in terms of economic indicators such as productivity or share in the value added, more general indicators such as participation rate, occupational mobility, educational achievements, etc. had to be used.

The impact of new technology which is considered here includes any change in the position of women in the textile and garment industry, both quantitative and qualitative. The indirect impact of technologies in use in other countries on the competitiveness of Asian developing countries is as important as the direct impact from the introduction of new technologies in Asia. The. indirect impact is actually of more immediate relevance for Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand.

Table 5.1 Characteristics of four development stages of the textile and garment industry


Stage I

Stage II

Stage III

Stage IV

Use of endowments: competitiveness

abundant natural resources (cotton silk) and/or low cost labour

abundant natural resources(cotton, silk) and/or low cost labour

human capital and technology

high technological capabilities(invention, adaptation. application) and highly-skilled manpower: key role of support infrastructure

Composition of MVA (manufacturing value added): industrial structure

light consumer industries; mass production of low VA(value added) products benefiting from economies of scale; dominance of state-owned enterprises

-horizontal expansion: same products and factor inputs
- vertical expansion: higher VA products

dominance of intermediate and capital goods branches; consolidation/ streamlining; shedding labour-intensive industries and processes

dominance of service sector including a large proportion of industry related services previously included under industry; vertical integration and cooperation; concentration on high VA products for the upper-end market

Technological capabilities: level of technology; HRD/training; position of women

semi-automatic labour-intensive technology using abundant unskilled labour force; apprenticeship and on-the-job training sufficient; opportunity costs of manufacturing labour force are close to zero for men and women alike; preference for women based upon the nature and tradition of tasks

mix of labour and capital-intensive technology; increasing importance of vocational qualifications an din-service training; increasing occupational polarization between male and female labour force; opportunity costs of labour in the light, low VA industries are higher for men than women; preference for women based upon cost advantage

increasing automation to compensate for rising labour costs; demand for semi-skilled and high-skilled production labour force; increasing demand for management and marketing expertise; increasing occupational and wage disparity between women and men due to educational and training differences; low cost of female labour loses its prime importance as other factors enter the cost structure women are leaving the industry for the service sector

highly automated; use of the newest technology responding to changing market conditions rather than changes in factor costs; highly educated or trained manpower; emphasis on multi-skilling; organized in-service training or retraining, and R&D; lack of technical education marginalizes women in industry; more opportunities in the supportive services

Government policies: social/economic; women specific

import protection/infant industry argument; for foreign investment/ employment creation policies; labour legislation including selective protection measures for female labour force

export promotion; incentives local and foreign investors; cooperation infrastructure; localization policies; selective protection measures for female labour force

provision of enabling environment for training and technology with industry in training and education; promotion of equal employment opportunities and wages equality between men and women; social services

cooperation with industry on development (science parks, projects); promotion of women's social and economic status(provision of social services and non-discriminatory legislation)