Workshop on the Status of Women in the New Market Economies
co-sponsored by NEWW and the University of Connecticut School of Law

Read the Conference Program

April 13-15, 1996
Prepared by Donna Axel

Monday afternoon, April 15, 1996
Panel III: Markets, Human Development and Democracy

Co-Facilitators:
Panelists:

Tamara Lothian (U.S.A.):
In considering structural adjustment in relationship to human rights, the traditional language of rights is inadequate because of the practical difficulty (access to resources when governments are bankrupt), but also a conceptual difficulty in how to include a rights discussion within the discussion of economic structural adjustment. Structural adjustment in the narrowest sense refers to some policies that are imposed on or adopted by some countries previously called 2nd or 3rd world. It refers to policies in those countries' assimilation of market
institutions that look like what we think they are supposed to have. In a broader setting, structural adjustment stands for the image of a market-based economy. For purposes of this larger debate, the ideological basis is: what is the relationship between basic property rights and basic constitutional rights?
Structural adjustment is justified and imposed on other countries. From the perspective of the recipient country, human rights questions may arise in a few ways, such as:
  • economic and social entitlements or protections;
  • impoverishment associated with the establishment of market-based economies.
There are also 3rd-generation rights: how far from the debate are these rights or concerns? They are considered a supplement to the debate. The typical distance between rights discourse and economic structural adjustment discourse. One of the things that I hope we can salvage is this ability to include social and economic interests, keeping in mind:
  • what to include;
  • alternative approaches;
  • the broader implications of this approach.

Jeremy Paul (U.S.A.):
The downside or the shadows of privatization, owning your own business. The concept of "earning privacy" in his family (described in the first day's small group discussion) was transposed by a woman from Central and Eastern Europe into the concept of "buying privacy." Capitalism has a way of trampling on other forms of life and traditions. For example, the market attacked religion in that now stores in the U.S. are open all the time, even Sundays and holidays. We've seen movies about how greed is good. Paul recommends two books:
One by Juliet Shore, "The Overworked American", on how the increasing power of markets is dragging people out of home life and into work. Another by Robert Putman, "Bowling Alone," on how civic participation is declining as more people prefer to watch television.
Considering gender and gender roles:
  • gender discriminatory laws vs. laws that protect all types of workers; with command and control social change, we have top-down control.
  • going back to Joan Williams' point earlier, disputes over abortion divide women in a different way than they divide men.
  • What is the appropriate organization of the economy? It is too easy to take for granted that life would be better if "everyone would be in the workforce as the ideal worker." Consider the quality of life when this happens.

Csilla Kollonay Lehoczky:
Will the development of a market economy destroy social rights?

Kerry Rittich (U.S.A.):
What are the role of economic structures and their effect on women? Structural adjustment programs have disparate effects on women; in brief, birth control, education, and health bear more heavily on women than men. In examining the status of women and women's rights, we tend to focus on abortion, reproductive rights, etc. Let's turn our attention to the background structure in our societies, and the relationshp to social life and to the family and the market.
1. Who bears the cost of social responsibility for reproduction in society. What is the shape of these structures and the role of the law? All economic restructuring involves a reshaping of rights. Women need to be interested in the structure of economic life. Women's involvement in the informal economy tends to be overlooked. For example, gross national product does not include nonpaid production, such as child care, care for elders, volunteer work, etc. which is very significant to life. Thus, GNP is a false measure of societal production. There is a reproductive tax equal to the cost that women must bear in order to be involved in the formal ecommy.

Joel Paul (U.S.A.):
This is a very strange moment historically because so many countries have emerged from the region with a deep sense of nationalism, yet are also being pulled into a supranational economy. The "international trade constitution" improves the flow of capital and relatively free flow of goods and services, while limiting the ability of labor to negotiate; this has a consequence on women.
To simplify: Free trade theory operates on the assumption of comparative advantage, which turns on price. GATT polices "price." Any deviation is subject to duties. If the U.S. was to assist a company, for example to provide daycare, then the products of those companies could be subject to countervailing duties, But not all government intervention is illegal. For example, government can provide some subsidies for certain types of research. The U.S. cannot protect its own workers without making its products subject to countervailing duties. If the U.S. decides to tax more heavily products from a country that exploits women and children in their labor practices, the U.S. can be penalized under the GATT. However, the U.S. is permitted to eliminate regulations that make labor in this country more expensive (in other words, regulations that maintain higher standards of living).
The "region" is now choosing to limit the role that their individual countries can play in their own economies by choosing to adhere to GATT principles. Nationhood is gendered and central to the concept of sovereignty. It is ironic that claims for national sovereignty come at the same time that countries are ceding national sovereignty to GATT. We no longer have the ability to control our economies. Therefore, political parties focus on the control of women and racial minorities since they cannot control the economy.

Csilla Kollonay Lehoczky:
Women are largely involved in the double economy and shadow economy. The flag at the top of the masthead moves the most as the boat shifts from side to side; women are that flag, and stress affects them the most. We don't know what to adjust ourselves to. We are just in a dark tunnel and don't know where we will arrive. Not sure the contents are so firm. We are always thinking of catching up with the market economies, but which market economies? How is it guaranteed that we will adjust ourselves to your market economy? Are you able to adjust yourself to that?

Comments

Helen Hartnell:
Based on living in Hungary for 3 years and based on Jeremy's starting point, the ethics of "earning privacy,: taken to its extreme leads to abuse of "buying privacy," may be part of the process in Central and Eastern Europe of balancing rights and responsibilities. An imbalance leads to abuse. She is astonished at the passivity of Hungarians at losing entitlements and jobs. Why is ther no reaction? What happened when the austerity budget was set up last year and the Constitutional Court struck it down: Hungarians protested the restructuring. I believe women of Hungary protested because maternity benefits were cut drastically. Is there a mass movement among women in response to austerity budgets?

Csilla Kollonay Lehoczky:
Women are in an ambivalent situation. They didn't have to go to the streets about maternity benefits because the Court invalidated that part of the budget. Mostly teachers protested because of threats to schools. "They want to do to us what they couldn't do to Moscow."

Joan Williams:
commented to Jeremy's comment on her earlier comment. When she made that statement, she thought there might be problems with it, and she agrees that it is false in terms of abortion. But she still thinks it is true that men seem to strangely agree on norms of gender behavior, excecpt for gay men. She has a question for Joel: to what extent does economic law affect these transitions in terms of GATT and international economic organizations?

Joel Paul:
GATT is the ground rules of the World Trade Organization, latest round in 1994. But there are other organizations: European Union and association agreements. On the revenue side, there is a strong presumption to favor VAT (value-added tax) over income tax, because it can be refunded on export and helps all exports remain competitive. On the expenditures side, reflect traditional government activities. Subsidies to particular or non-traditional government activities, like taking over industries, might be GATT illegal.

Tamara Lothian:
GATT is often called liberal trade system. There are many alternatives that could conflict with GATT. We haven't yet developed a conceptualization for these alternatives.

Alexandra Rudneva:
This is a very interesting economic discussion. The control of women in terms of economics is very true concerning Russia and Ukraine. During the Soviet period, there was no real access to property, 30% in party and parliament. When state collapsed, the real rulers of the state shared the property. Ukraine has 2nd highest level of educated women, and now women don't know what to do. She and the London School of Economics are trying to develop some legal support and some discussion of whether to develop temporary taxation privilege for women. There are some models.
How women are controlled in reproductive labor system is also important. It is a very acute issue that women don't want to have chldren, and this affects the future of the nation. Some terminology quite different in old and new market economies, for example, protective legislation. It took an hour for it to be explained to me what the differences are. It is not possible now to reduce protective legislation for women in places like Ukraine. For example, if a woman is sent to a mine and she refuses, then she'll be told, well, you've turned down a job.

Isabel Marcus:
To rephrase Sasha Rudneva, implicit entitlements masked patriarchy. Now patriarchy is unmasked.


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