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close this bookOpportunities for Advancement - Women and Industry (UNIDO, 1995, 20 p.)
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View the documentForeword
View the documentIndustry and social development
View the documentPriorities
View the documentProjects
View the documentStudies
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Industry and social development

Sustainable social development is dependent upon the economic growth and job opportunities stimulated by a sound industrial base. And likewise, sustainable industrial development requires a social environment which has the means to promote clean, appropriate technologies, provide opportunities for the work force to acquire education and skills, and implement industrialization strategies which create jobs. For countries seeking long-term returns on their investment in development, employment generation and poverty alleviation are two sides of the same coin. Health care, education and social integration depend largely on income generated from the productive sectors of the economy, namely agriculture and manufacturing.

Industry's major sustainable contribution to job creation, and hence to economic and social prosperity, lies in its multiplier effect on employment generation. Through connections with other economic sectors, in particular agriculture and services, manufacturing activities multiply the demand for labour throughout the economy, in rural as well as urban areas. A large share of these activities are traditionally conducted by women.

On a global average, women constitute 30% of the industrial labour force, which has important implications for social issues. As in most relationships, it is a case of potential for mutual benefit. Economic and social advancement are dependent on performance in the global market place, which is in turn dependent on an educated, skilled work force.


A study undertaken by UNIDO reveals that women in the manufacturing sector in every region of the world welcome opportunities for further training. It improves their social and educational position, increases their options, extends their life span and cuts overall poverty levels.

Women are entrepreneurs, owners, workers, managers, technicians, involved in every level and every aspect of the manufacturing process. Yet in spite of strides made toward improving women's position in industry, the majority of women continue to be concentrated in low-level jobs, where they are poorly paid, and exposed to health hazards. Nevertheless, working in industry is a means for women to secure income for their families, and to achieve a degree of independence. The challenge is to bring about their equitable integration.

In whatever job, type and sector of manufacturing, women in industry rarely have the same opportunities as men. They do not enjoy the same access to financial services such as credit, to cleaner, safer production techniques and to appropriate technology, training, retraining, and the opportunity to upgrade skills.

Awareness of social development issues is on the increase worldwide, and is reflected in international conferences and fora organized by the United Nations since the Nairobi Conference on Women in 1985, such as the World Summit for Children (1991), the Conference on Environment and Development (1992), the World Conference on Human Rights (1993), the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), the World Summit for Social Development (1995), the Fourth World Conference on Women (1995), and the Conference on Human Settlements.

The international community has responded by signing major international accords which support the increased involvement of women in economic activities. But obstacles remain to translating these commitments into reality. They are felt in an absense of appropriate policy measures and resources. They also exist in the form of gender biases, affecting women's access to certain professions, to training, and to financial support mechanisms.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) takes the view that industry can only be considered truly productive when it is productive for society as a whole. UNIDO deals with industry in its interdependent relationship with the labour force, the economy, technology and the environment, and assists in generating and maintaining a fruitful interaction between them.


UNIDO integrates and coordinates policy advice, technical assistance and human resource development expertise to assist governments to achieve the equitable integration of women in industry.

At present, for women at every level of the manufacturing process, conditions of work are in flux. The demands of an increasingly technological orientation in industry reveal ways in which women are disadvantaged in their preparation to meet them. UNIDO's strategy must be seen in the context of trends prevailing in industry today.

The World Since 1989

Women in industry in the mid-1990s find themselves in a world very different to the previous decade. The globalization of industrial production, the structural adjustment programmes in many developing countries, and the transformation of centrally planned economies have all had fundamental effects on the industrialization process. Production has shifted from labour-intensive, assembly-line oriented systems to become skill-and technology-intensive, and from import-substitution to export-led growth and trade.

The competitive advantage enjoyed by developing countries, often based on plentiful and cheap labour, is gradually being eroded by increasing technological innovations and competition from other labour markets. The introduction of computerized technologies and automation has reduced the importance of labour-intensive production significantly, rendering predominantly "typically female" occupations redundant, i.e. low-skilled assembly jobs in industrialized as well as industrializing countries.

Changes in organizational structures have lead to the creation of more complex and demanding jobs which integrate production, quality control and maintenance tasks, and demand a high level of responsibility and qualifications from the multi-skilled worker.


In general, when technologies are introduced to a sector, women with few skills and little technological training, are displaced by better trained men. Educated women in transition economies are finding that their specific skills have become obsolete. Men have been targeted almost exclusively for retraining. Women need to build on the skills they already possess through upgrading or retraining, to make them competitive in the very markets which have now rendered them unemployed.

Women in management need to adjust to new structures, which require a combination of skills in technology, market analysis, product design and adaptation, quality control, pricing, marketing, personnel management, leadership.


The good news is that the changes - the opening of markets, the trend toward privatization, the encouragement of entrepreneurship are also opportunities.

Governments in developing countries seeking new sources for promoting economic growth will find hitherto untapped potential in many small-scale, informal activities traditionally conducted by women. In the majority of developing countries, women make a substantial contribution to output and value added of the manufacturing sector. Small-and medium-scale industries constitute one area in which women's role is most pronounced. Because of the lack of opportunities for them in the formal sector, they take up or take part in activities in the informal production sector out of necessity, and now dominate that sector. In terms of poverty alleviation, here lies an enormous potential for self-sufficiency through income generation, and productive businesses which create local jobs.


Yet the entrepreneurial potential that I exists in these I activites is rarely I realized beyond I the basic level I required to I sustain the family. I Despite the B importance of the informal sector for overall p economic growth, and women's 3 dominant position in it, they do not receive I full, adequate support, often lacking access to resources to fulfill their production and profit potential, and to environment-friendly technologies and production methods.

The need to prepare people for manufacturing activities and facilitate their access to clean technologies has never been more evident than now. The world is plagued with environmental problems, and as industrial trends move away from labour-intensive to technologically-intensive production, being competitive in local and export markets depends increasingly on the availability of skilled labour, and on entrepreneurial, and particularly, small- and medium-scale manufacturing cum business initiatives. A competitive industrial strategy has to support the use of appropriate technologies, promote SMEs, and see to the equitable integration of all groups involved.

As the United Nations agency charged with technological and human resource development for industry in developing countries, UNIDO aims to promote industrial development which fulfills the potential of industry and its related technological developments as major instruments of economic and social change. UNIDO's mandate is to prepare people and industry for a mutually beneficial relationship: to assist people to make contributions commensurate with their personal professional potential, and to improve industry's contribution to economic growth and social well-being.

With its long-standing and extensive efforts to integrate women in industry, UNIDO plays a unique role in advancing the economic and social prosperity of women. Through the integration of a gender perspective into all UNIDO programmes and services, a visible impact has been achieved. To coordinate UNIDO's efforts to improve women's contribution to industry, the Integration of Women in Industrial Development Unit was established in 1986.


The UNIDO Programme and Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Industrial Development 1990 -1995 was endorsed by the Third General Conference in 1989. UNIDO's services for women are directed towards assisting them to meet the challenges of industrial restructuring, technological changes and economic reforms, and to 7 enable them to participate on an equal basis, both in industrial decision-making and in the benefits of development.

UNIDO and Women in Industry Women's equitable involvement in industry is not possible without legislative, social, infrastructural and practical preconditions. Any approach to integrating women in industry must account for all of these factors, and must be sensitive to each socio-cultural context. The specific and complex array of elements involved requires integrated, coordinated plans of action.

UNIDO's technical assistance combines policy advice and strategies with capacity-building activities at the subsectoral level, as well as human resource development expertise. Comprehensive programmes are conducted in cooperation with other UN agencies for the integration of activities with the aim of capacity-building for long-term, sustainable growth, achieved through the organization of women's associations and networking operations with business associations and other NGOs. The networks established with both public and private sectors in the course of a UNIDO project are a particularly important contribution to sustainable development.

The Integration of Women in Industrial Development Unit coordinates activities specifically for and involving women. UNIDO's approach is to promote the advancement of women in the development process through mainstreaming, by recognizing. women as full actors and equal partners in the target groups of activities and programmes which address the problems of both women and men. Specific programmes and services for women nevertheless remain necessary to remove the obstacles impeding women from participating fully in the mainstream of development.


Particularly successful experiences in project execution have led to the formulation of more systematic and conceptualized programmes suitable for adaptation and replication, utilizing needs assessments and analyses of target groups and country-based socio-economic environments, across regions and/or industrial subsectors.

Representative projects are illustrated throughout this brochure.

Subsector-specific expertise: UNIDO's target-, action- and demand-oriented interventions are geared to specific subsectors, be it at the production level or the entrepreneurial level, in the informal or formal sector. Attention has been focused especially on subsectors where women predominate, such as food processing and textile and garment production.

Studies: UNIDO has established a database including information on regions, countries and manufacturing subsectors pertaining to the integration of women in industry. Most recently, the findings of the UNIDO global patterns typology study on the . participation of women in manufacturing, completed in 1992, have been refined through the implementation of five regional analyses. These are the only studies of this kind.


· Industrial and technological growth and competitiveness
· Development of human resources for industry
· Equitable development through industrial development
· Environmentally sustainable industrial growth

· International cooperation in industrial investment and technology