Gender Transformation, Care Work and Organising in Flexibilised Global Capitalism

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Ilse LENZ, Ruhr University, Germany
The ongoing transformation of gender relations and capitalism implies new chances and new barriers for gender and labour organising. In postfordism, the Fordist breadwinner/housewife model has been replaced by flexibilisation and precarisation of large groups of women and men. Flexibilised global capitalism has propelled the commodification of women’s labour power in various flexibilised forms for example as informal workers, home workers or on irregular and precarious arrangements. New combinations between unpaid, low paid and informal and wage work are emerging calling for intersectional analysis looking at gender, class and migration. One example is the combination of work by family members, irregular migrants and public kindergartens in childcare.

Feminist and grass roots labour movements have been another force transforming gender relations by struggling for women’s rights to independent and decent work. Women have entered the global labour force on a large scale. In paid care work, they have organised in various forms from engaging in trade unions in the service sector to networks of irregular migrant domestic workers. Nancy Fraser’s critique of elective affinity between feminism and neoliberalism focuses on upper class feminism in the US and neglects these worldwide contentions.

I will argue that the transformation in gender relations generates new tensions as well as new chances for labour movements and organsising in care work. In childcare, for example, several labour struggles have developed cross mobilisations involving mothers/ parents, kindergarten teachers, feminists and local civil society. Thus, they provided new approaches to the issues of care, work and human and social life. Labour organisations also could strengthen the networks with other movements, as parents and feminist networks. Summing up research on these struggles, I will analyse their potentials as well as their limits.