Maquiladora employment, low-income households and gender dynamics : a case study in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Based on data collected in Juarez, northern Mexico, this thesis argues that the incorporation of low-income women into modern forms of industrial employment, i.e. assembly industries or as called locally 'maquilas', alters patriarchal forms of domination at the household level. As women enter maquila employment the focus of patriarchal control shifts from the private sphere of the home to the public sphere of the workplace. That is, the thesis argues that women's incorporation in maquilas prompted a shift from a private form of patriarchy to a public one, or else a capitalist patriarchy. This said, capitalist patriarchy shaped respondents' lives and their households in varying ways according to respondents' stage in the life course, their households and individual characteristics. Indeed, the complex interrelation between women's life course, and their households, as they intersect with the particular patterns and characteristics of the maquiladora industry and individual workers' characteristics illuminated the heterogeneity of workers' responses to emerging forms of capitalist patriarchy. While the thesis is grounded on life course analysis with special reference to low- income maquila workers' households, the study is comparative at two different levels. At one level it is inter-generational in that it looks at three different 'industrial generations' of women in Juarez; at a second level it is comparative in that it looks at the case of women maquila workers with respect to non-maquila workers, including the case of low-income housewives. Finally, the thesis analyses women workers' responses to the pace of changes. Contrary to other studies carried out in Juarez on maquila workers, the data collection for this thesis was not conducted in factory premises but in the low-income settlements. Interviews conducted combined structured and semi-structured interviews and life and work histories. 82 households located in 25 settlements spread across the northern, central and southern parts of low-income Juarez were visited and from those, 33 life and work histories and 6 inter-generational meetings with maquila mothers and maquila daughters formed the core bulk of data. Whilst the main findings point to an emerging form of patriarchal control in women maquila workers' lives, this thesis highlights the heterogeneity among the various generations of maquila workers that form the labour pool related to the changing nature of maquilas in the city over time.