Gender, migration and the organisation of work under economic devolution: Ecuador, 1982-90

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International Journal of Population Geography


economic devolution impacts, Ecuador, gender, migration impacts, structural adjustment impacts


This study examined the impact of economic deficits due to structural adjustment processes on shifts in the organization of work by gender and migration status in Ecuador. Work is organized according to Lawson's social hierarchy scheme: ownership; authority and control over employees; autonomy in one's own work; and the nature and range of skills used in production. After a brief review of the related empirical literature, the author describes the concepts, categories of, and study area of work and then begins the empirical analysis. Data were obtained from 1,884,816 individual records of economically active persons in 1982 and 2,946,547 persons in 1990, from the censuses of 1982 and 1990 for the entire nation, and from fieldwork observations by Lawson. Structural adjustment policies (SAPs) associated with devolution tend to further aggravate inequities, especially among the disadvantaged. Findings are presented for male and female nonmigrants, migrants, and female migrants. During the 1980s, female migrants experienced primary economic activity, especially as self-employed, family, or low skilled employees; and declines in high skilled public sector employment and service activity, especially in wage labor. The economic impact was greater by gender than by migration status. The shifts only improved the relative position of women in self-employed and ownership jobs. Females lost public-sector employment to males; overall wage declines were more severe in the informal sector. Down-sizing in the public sector and shifts toward capital-intensive production marginalized female migrants. Fieldwork operationalizes losses among females/female migrants.