Women-only unions in Japan and Korea: The impact of gender specific organising
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In the 1990s women-only unions re-emerged in Japan and Korea. These unions unlike the mainstream mixed unions in both countries, organise the growing non full-time workforce and women employed in small non-unionised workplaces, both across enterprises and employment status boundaries. By examining several women-only unions in Japan and Korea this paper examines gender-specific union organising and its impact on women workers and the union movement. The paper argues the creation of women-only unions has been an important strategy for women workers in both countries because they address issues around women workers' employment conditions which mainstream unions have either overlooked or have been unable to overcome. They also create a valuable experience of unions and a connection with the working class movement for women workers who have not had this experience. Their success however, has differed. While the gains of Japan's women-only unions are limited, Korea's women-only unions have been much more successful in mobilising women workers and overcoming sexism in the union movement. Their success is due to the availability of broader organisational assistance and expertise, the existence of a substantial progressive union federation and combined campaigns with the broader mixed union movement.
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