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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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