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  • Cited by 96
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
April 2019
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Book description

This book focuses on the changing gender patterns of work in a global retail environment associated with the rise of contemporary retail and global sourcing. This has affected the working lives of hundreds of millions of workers in high-, middle- and low-income countries. The growth of contemporary retail has been driven by the commercialised production of many goods previously produced unpaid by women within the home. Sourcing is now largely undertaken through global value chains in low- or middle-income economies, using a 'cheap' feminised labour force to produce low-price goods. As women have been drawn into the labour force, households are increasingly dependent on the purchase of food and consumer goods, blurring the boundaries between paid and unpaid work. This book examines how gendered patterns of work have changed and explores the extent to which global retail opens up new channels to leverage more gender-equitable gains in sourcing countries.


‘We live in a world of global value chains, which link thousands of firms, large and small, across multiple cultural and political boundaries. Global value chains have changed how consumers interact with global corporations and their suppliers, and impacted the working conditions of millions of people employed in farms, factories and retail stores across the world. Building on years of detailed empirical research across different industries and in several countries, Barrientos shows how global values chains are also reshaping the gender profile of work across several middle- and low-income countries. Gendered patterns of work in these global value chains can both relegate women workers to poorly paid and unrecognized labor or lead to economic empowerment and enhanced worker rights. The conditions and mechanisms that lead to these alternative outcomes are beautifully detailed in this cutting edge piece of research. Gender and Work in Global Value Chains is a tour de force that will fundamentally change the way we think of the world of work and the gendered dynamics shaping the global economy.'

Richard M. Locke - Brown University, Rhode Island

‘Based on over ten years of research across the globe and case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America, Gender and Work in Global Value Chains provides an illuminating study of contemporary working relations and gender discrimination. Exploitation and low and uncertain wages are rife but not all is gloom and doom. Some women producers and progressive firms (as a consequence of the research) have recognised that women's ‘socialised skills' increase product quality and speed of delivery. While the firms capture most of the gains, by organising, some women have improved their working conditions and secured support for domestic work and care.'

Diane Perrons - London School of Economics and Political Science

‘Based on her excellent work on Capturing the Gains research programme, this book introduces global chains in a balanced, sophisticated and highly intelligent way. Barrientos is passionate about using GVCs to improve conditions of work of those who labour along these chains through advocating a stronger regulation of capital. She argues that this can be done only through a 'constant process of engagement, bargaining and contestation'. This book will be an excellent contribution to the debates on GVCs and their importance in understanding production, exploitation, and the campaigns to improve the way we consume.

Shirin Rai - University of Warwick

‘This empirically rich, multi-layered and insightful book breaks down the barriers around global value chain analysis to demonstrate how these chains have been shaped by and are reshaping gender relations across the wage production and social reproduction divide. Importantly, it allows for women's agency and for gender relations to open to change by exploring not only the very considerable evidence of exploitation and undervaluation of women's work but also evidence of the contestation of these conditions and associated gendered norms.'

Jill Rubery - University of Manchester

‘The most remarkable feature of this book is Barrientos’ ability to command an extraordinarily rich material of case studies, experiences, analyses, and evidence to compare, and contrast complex development trajectories across the global economy, their gendered outcomes in the world of work, and implications for societal change. … the book shall be widely read by scholars and students of development studies, development economics, and all those interested in gendered political economy and supply chain capitalism.’

Alessandra Mezzadri Source: Journal of Development Studies

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