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Mapping a Global Labor Market: Gender and Skill in the Globalizing Garment Industry

Jane L. Collins
Gender and Society
Vol. 16, No. 6 (Dec., 2002), pp. 921-940
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3081941
Page Count: 20
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Mapping a Global Labor Market: Gender and Skill in the Globalizing Garment Industry
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Abstract

This article examines the ways that managers in a rapidly globalizing industry use gendered discourses of skill to justify and frame their search for inexperienced workers in low-wage regions, using a case of a U.S.-based apparel firm that relocated and subcontracted its sewing operations in the 1990s. It uses feminist theory to examine managers' claims that women's sewing skills in the United States were disappearing and that they needed to seek out these skills in parts of the world where women were not yet active participants in labor markets. Feminist researchers have long understood the ways that naturalization of skill cheapens women's labor. The case presented here highlights the way in which the portrayal of certain skills as naturally occurring resources justifies the movement of capital in search of new pools of workers without labor market experience or union representation.

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