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Women and Neoliberalism-Historical Background. Why called neoliberal? With the return of democracy in Latin America in the 1980s, governments had to deal with a series of economic crises:

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Women and Neoliberalism-Historical Background

  • Why called neoliberal?

  • With the return of democracy in Latin America in the 1980s, governments had to deal with a series of economic crises:

    • Newly elected governments tried to deal with a decline in the economies of Latin America by borrowing more money

    • Economic problems caused by many factors: decreased production and export, the high cost of petroleum as a result of the oil crisis of the 1970s

    • Unemployment increased along with underemployment

    • As Latin American countries asked for more loans, European and US lenders began to ask for structural reforms


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Structural Reforms

  • Reduction in State Expenditures

    • Sell off inefficient state owned enterprises--privatization

    • Fire unproductive workers

    • Eliminate subsidies for consumers canasta familiar and end fixed prices

    • Privatize social welfare institutions

  • Trade liberalization

    • Eliminate tariff barriers

    • Reduce tariffs

    • Deregulation of the economy


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Impact on Latin America

  • Increased the percentage of poor people from 35% in 1980 to 41% in 1990

  • Impact varied from country to country, but Chile most affected because both military and later democratic governments had long advocated neo-liberal policies-during 1980s percentage of poor people rose to more than 40%

  • Another way to explain impact—top 10% of the population earned 45% of income while bottom 5% earned 4% of GNP

  • Rich getting richer while poor getting poorer.

  • At the same time the debt is piling up.


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Impact on women

  • More women have to get into the labor force to support their families especially if men are laid off

  • Older women and widows more often poorer than other groups in Latin American and elsewhere—”feminization of poverty”

  • Women have to devise new economic strategies to feed and clothe the family

  • Women have to deal with emotional costs of neoliberalism such as the rise in marital violence


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How to define poverty

  • Absolute vs. relative poverty

    • Absolute poverty refers to people living without basic things like food and shelter

    • Relative poverty refers to comparisons of groups based on income, access to work, shelter, food, etc.

  • How to measure poverty

    • Often defined in terms of caloric intake as well as access to food, shelter, etc.

  • How do you define minimum levels of survival

    • Based on income needed to provide basic caloric needs

  • What is a poverty line?

    • Economic measurement used by governments to define minimally acceptable standards

    • Implicitly it accepts a percentage of people who fall below this


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Reproductive vs. Productive Labor

  • If women must leave the home to work, who takes care of the children?

  • Few Latin American states offered family planning—Mexico only began in 1974

  • How do women shop and prepare food and work at the same time?

  • How did the elimination of price controls affect women?

  • Impact on children


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Social Movements and Neoliberalism

  • Women did not accept the impact of neoliberalism without challenging it

  • Many social movements were responses to neoliberalism: organization of soup kitchens, neighborhood movements, demand for better health care etc.

  • Middle class women also impacted by neoliberalism as their incomes rapidly disappeared—different strategies: Continental feminist meetings as well as UN sponsored meetings dealt with these issues to pressure governments

  • Rise of NGO’s- Non Governmental Organization


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New Kinds of Political Demonstrations

  • Women involved in takeovers of government buildings

  • Women marched to protest economic policies

  • Women became picketers (picoteras)-block off major highways to protest unemployment, political corruption, economic policies







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