Stitching-up the labour market
In mainstream International Political Economy (IPE) writings on globalization, the multinational corporation (MNC) is placed at the centre of the emergence of a global market economy. Allied to this view is the normative position that these firms will have a positive, developmental impact on the states that they invest in. This article presents a gendered political economy perspective on the process of foreign direct investment (FDI), arguing that liberal IPE has failed to understand adequately the impact of the MNC on host states because of its attachment to ideas of rational action and modernization, and its assumption that the market is a gender-neutral space. By contrast, in this article, I argue that by looking at the gendered nature of recruitment practices within an MNC we are forced to confront the way in which firms work with existing inequalities embedded in the economy of the host state in order to secure a supply of low cost labour. The article presents case study research from an MNC operating in Malaysia, focusing on how company recruitment intersects with local social divisions based upon gender, ethnicity as well as age, rural-urban divides, class and education. I suggest that via its recruitment strategies, the firm plays a role in the construction of gendered and racialized inequalities. I argue that the MNC needs to be investigated as a site for the active construction of gendered identities across globalizing production lines, thus moving away from the traditional focus of feminist analysis of East Asian development on the experiences of the workers themselves.
International Feminist Journal of Politics
Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific