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Title: Inequalities at work : an investigation of the garment industry in Sri Lanka
Author: Gunatilaka, Panangalage Dona Hemamalie Dias
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 6279
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis considers some of the different forms taken by the intersection of social inequalities and exploitation in Sri Lankan garment factories. It identifies the organisational policies and practices that reproduce different ‘inequality regimes’ (Acker, 2006) in three case study garment companies, including inequalities of gender, class, ethnicity, religion, age and sexuality. These ‘inequality regimes’ also operate as ‘factory regimes’ (Burawoy, 1983), through which companies seek to generate worker productivity. Further, the thesis analyses the relation between women’s domestic situations and their employment, showing how both are shaped by the wider Sri Lankan patriarchal social structure. In order to understand the inequalities experienced by women at work the thesis mainly seeks to answer two research questions. The first research question asks about the nature of intersecting inequalities in the three case study organisations. The second research question relates to how women going to work in garment factories changes women’s lives. This research question pays special attention to Elson and Pearson’s (1981) three possible tendencies in the relationship between the emergence of women’s factory employment and women’s subordination. Methodologically, the research was based on semi-structured interviews with 36 male and female participants, including owners, managers and workers across three case study organisations, and observations in headquarters offices and three factories over nine months in 2014-2015. The research found that although all three case study organisations are located in the Sri Lankan garment industry, each case study organisation is typified by a highly distinctive inequality regime characterised by different mechanisms for maintaining or modifying wider inequalities and generating workers’ consent: one a ‘despotic regime’, one a ‘maternalistic regime’ and one a ‘pragmatic regime’. Each of these is associated with a degree of individual worker agency, but little collective resistance. The research also found that women’s decisions to enter employment is influenced by the income level of their husbands or fathers. When household income is low women are more able to challenge familial patriarchal authority by taking up employment in garment factories. Women’s contributions to household finances are associated with their families gaining status, women being involved in family decision-making and men contributing to domestic work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University Grants Commission ; Sri Lanka ; National Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences ; Sri Lanka
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HD Industries. Land use. Labor ; HQ The family. Marriage. Woman