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2015-02_dc

16 D+C Vol.42.2015:2 Reuters when Korean investors began to play a role, factories began to be set up in rural areas, and they soon hired indigenous women. Many of these women only have the choice between working in a maquila or serving a well-to-do family as a household helper. Either way, they suffer discrimination and must submit to others’ demands. Racism is omnipresent in Guatemalan so- ciety, undermining the self-esteem of women and compounding work-related problems. Many women accept tough working conditions in a maquila because they are poor in order to make at least some money that will help them cope. Unem- ployment has been getting worse recently. According to the National Labour Policy 2012-2021, a govern- ment document, some 71% of women are unem- ployed. It is hardly surprising that many of them do precarious work and even accept violence in such cir- cumstances. In many cases, the women concerned are the only persons in their family to have an income. According to the researchers and authors of the book “Nos hacen llorar” (“They make us cry”), Teresa Chocoyo and Heli- odoro Cumes, it is possible to find maquila jobs fast, and families often put pressure on women to earn money they desperately need. Tough working condi- tions are of little concern to families in this context. No relief In spite of all these problems and in view of tax exemp- tions that are already generous, President Otto Pérez Molina wants legislators to pass even more business- friendly laws. For instance, there is a draft for a law to promote investments and employment that would grant additional tax breaks for up to 55 years. The draft was recently retracted in view of protests staged by civil-society activists, especially women’s organisa- tions. The chambers of commerce, however, are still campaigning for this draft to become law. Congress is about to decide on a draft law con- cerning working hours and inclusion in governmen- tal social-protection schemes. The government intro- duced it with the declared goal of “supporting women who do not neglect their children’s education and their household duties”. Women’s-rights activists op- pose this draft because it reinforces the idea of wom- en primarily being house wives and mothers. Trade unions and labour-rights activists also vehemently oppose the draft, as it intends to make working rela- tions more flexible and will lead to lower wages espe- cially for young people, women and the elderly. The president managed to push through another business-friendly law however. Beginning in January 2015, special economic zones are to be established in four of the poorer municipal areas. The minimum wage paid in these zones will amount to a mere $197 per month. Many maquilas are likely to relo- cate to those places in order to benefit from cheap labour. Unemployment will soar where they have been producing so far, and the poverty of hundreds of thousands of people who depend on maquila work will get worse. These people are unlikely to find other jobs because they lack skills and formal edu- cation. Jorge Tobar Montañez of El Heraldo de Chihua- hua, a Mexican newspaper, argues that the growth of Central American maquilas is a result of globalisa- tion. International companies are taking advantage of “countries’ comparative advantages, which is cheap, female labour in this case”. The willingness of young women to do poorly paid work in exploitative circumstances is what attracts investors to countries like Guatemala. The women themselves hardly benefit. Maquila work does little to alleviate poverty. Of course, gov- ernments must create environments that attract in- vestors and foster economic development, but they must ensure that this goes along with decent work and fair wages. Literature: Monzón, A. S., 1992: Condiciones de vida de las obreras de la maquila. Tesis de grado (Sociología). USAC/Escuela de Ciencia Política. Oxfam Internacional, 2004: Trabajo de muchas, ganancia de pocos. El Salvador. Mirna Lilian Ramírez Pérez works for MUVACOFUM, Grupo de Mujeres con valor construyendounfuturomejor (Group of valuable women building a better future). MUVACOFUM is a women’s rightsorganisationthatfights for the rights of formal and informal workers. [email protected] Going to work.

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