ILO and Women’s Labor Rights in Tanzania

Research Proposal: International Labor Organization and women’s labor rights in the informal sector of Tanzania. Keywords: Tanzania, women’s labor rights, International Labor Organization (ILO), core standards, informal sector, globalization Objective: This study analyzes the effect of globalization on women’s labor rights in the informal sector of Tanzania. Specifically, it uses the International Labor Organization’s core standards as a method for measuring the effect of globalization on the status of women in the Tanzanian economy.

First, this project will show that the informal sector in Tanzania has been growing at a rapid rate because of increasing female participation. Next, it will analyze the impact of the growing informal economy on women’s social status within the country and most importantly, their standards of living measured in terms of health benefits, wages, and education. Finally, it will explain the link between ILO core standards and globalization and how these two elements have affected women’s labor rights in Tanzania.

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My hypothesis is that the growth in the informal sector of the economy is primarily due to increased incentive to leave the formal sector because of a large gender wage gap and harsh working conditions. Additionally, the lower education and literacy rates of women in Tanzania seem to have made job matching extremely difficult, thereby pushing the majority of women to create home-based projects to earn a living. However, while women have been able to earn higher wages in the informal sector than the formal sector, they have ultimately been made invisible to local laws and labor protection policies.

Thus I predict that the application of the ILO core standards in Tanzania have had a negative effect on women’s economic status in Tanzania because of their exclusion from labor protection policies and increased competition from other nations producing similar goods on an industrial level. Background: The ILO is a tripartite institution within the United Nations that brings together governments, workers and employers, in an effort to promote the rights of workers.

In order to pursue its mission, the ILO has created four core internationally recognized principles, which include 1) freedom of association, 2) freedom from forced labor, 3) the abolition of child labor and 4) nondiscrimination in employment, to ultimately raise the standards for labor across the globe. The standard that is most important in answering this question of women’s labor rights concerns the prohibition of discrimination in the workplace.

The ILO defines equality in the workplace as an environment in which individuals should be given equal opportunities to gain knowledge and skills that help them acquire the human capital necessary to pursue their desired “economic activities. ” Tanzania has been a member of the ILO since 1962 and has ratified 2 of the ILO standards. Since then, Tanzania has experienced numerous wars and economic crisis especially during the 1970’s and 1980’s in which most of the women left the formal sector of the economy due to huge drops in real wages.

As a result, Ali Tripp reports that these women started their own projects in the informal sector of the economy to provide for their families (Tripp 1989). For example, 70% of the flower export industry in Tanzania is comprised of women workers. However, labor groups often neglect these women because they are outside the formal sector of the economy. This study seeks to discover the consequences of this neglect in a fast-paced integrated economic market. An example that sheds light on the outcome is Bangladesh.

Like Tanzania, Bangladesh has been a member of the ILO for around 40 years and has ratified 7 of 8 crucial labor standards promoted by ILO. However, Naila Kabeer’s study on the garment industry in Bangladesh’s informal sector proves this has done little to alter the working conditions for women (Kabeer 2004). Kabeer argues that employers within the informal sector are outside the jurisdiction of traditional labor policies leaving its workers open to a higher rate of labor abuses such as sexual harassment, inferior working conditions and wages.

For example, in this particular industry, wages are often delayed for months to keep workers from quitting. Thus it is highly likely that similar industries in Tanzania, that are dominated by women, may also be experiencing the same conditions regardless of ILO ratified standards. Theory: The theory of globalization will serve as the basis for my project. Globalization– the integration of local and national markets into one global market–has transformed every aspect of interactions among societies.

Industrial and developing nations are dependent on each other for economic sustainability. Technology has permitted the rapid exchange of information and ideas between nations and individuals. And trade has allowed nations to focus on industries and economic activities in which they have a comparative advantage. All of these aspects contribute to the notion that the interconnectedness of our world today is undeniable. Although globalization has been occurring for around the past thirty years, the costs and benefits of its presence are still undetermined.

The Center for Trade and Policy Studies (CATO) and Amartya Sen argue that globalization has been extremely advantageous to the economic growth and prosperity of nations throughout the world (CATO 2006). Reports from this center conclude that globalization has increased access to foreign capital, private investment, export markets, technology and skill training, which has decreased poverty as well as increased environmental and labor standards across the board (CATO 2006).

On the other hand, Geo-JaJa in collaboration with USA Africa reports the exact opposite: that globalization, “by all standards of economic growth, education and literacy outcome…has brought less progress to the continent…” (Geo-JaJa 2003). More specifically, Marilyn Carr’s report on the informal sector in Sub-Saharan Africa shows that globalization has ultimately decreased women’s wages, increased their workload and lowered their working standards (Carr et all 2000).

Thus, my paper adds to the theory of globalization by researching a specific case—Tanzania– and how the country has been affected by a policy that has been deemed, for the most part, advantageous to workers in third world countries. However, my research proposes to dig a bit deeper by studying the effect of globalization on a population who has been historically disadvantaged by international labor policies—women.

Significance: This is applicable to Tanzania because, like the rest of Africa and most East Asian countries, women are the majority of workers within the informal sector. Thus, if the goal of the ILO is truly to protect and improve the status of workers and if the International Labor Organization’s core standards are truly disadvantageous to workers in the informal sector, then the organization needs to reevaluate its policies in order to truly achieve the goals it has set for itself.

And more importantly, it infers that there needs to be more international dialogue on the effects of globalization because if globalization is the cause of lowering the women’s status in the labor market for higher wages, then neo-liberal policies need to be reevaluated in terms of human standards: living standards, health benefits, education and culture, before being enacted. Method: My research will involve both qualitative and quantitative methods. While I am unsure as to what steps I will be taking to complete the roject, I have brainstormed some ideas on how to approach the question proposed. In terms of quantitative analysis, I feel that following the trends of growth in GDP per capita, inflation, budget deficits and wages may be beneficial to see whether the wage trends have reflected economic instabilities rather than gender discrimination. It may be helpful to measure the migration of women from the formal sector to the informal sector to see how the labor market has been affected by this change.

Qualitatively, I think that assessing legislative policies enacted by congress as well as general cultural beliefs, may shed light on the cause of discrimination, meaning whether it is inherent in the legal structure or an effect of ILO policies or neither. And since I am unable to conduct interviews, I hope to be able to locate past interviews conducted on the issue or locate other first hand sources that reveal further information on this issue.

Maybe even comparing Tanzania’s government data on women unemployment and wages to those in Bangladesh or other East/ South Asian countries, may help find some common ground to explain this global phenomenon. Education: I first became interested in this topic after taking African Politics with Professor Leonard. Since then, I have pursued my interest by furthering my education in this field by completing a course in Human Rights and Politics of Identity with Darren Zook and Transitions to Democracy with Professor Fish.

All of these classes combined have given me valuable insight on globalization and its effects not only in Africa but also throughout the world. In addition to my academic background, I also interned at the National Headquarters for the National Organization for Women in Washington, D. C. as the Economic Justice Intern to gain first hand experience on how an expanded economic market has affected the status of women in America. Ultimately, I believe that these two issues have adequately prepared me to embark on my own research project. Carr, M. , M. Tate, J. Tate. 000 Globalization and Home-based Workers. Feminist Economics. 6 (3): 123-142 CATO Institute, “The Benefits of Globalization,” http://www. freetrade. org/issues/globalization. html Geo-JaJa, Macleans A. 2003. Rethinking Globalization in Africa, USA Africa Institute 1 (1): 19-28. Kabeer, N. 2004, Globalization, labor standards, and women’s rights: dilemmas of collective (in)action in an interdependent world. Feminist Economics. 10 (1): 3-35 Tripp, A. 1989. Women and the Changing Urban Household Economy in Tanzania. The Journal of Modern African Studies. 27 (4): 601-623

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ILO and Women’s Labor Rights in Tanzania. (2018, May 23). Retrieved from