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The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy

Radhika Balakrishnan, editor
The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy
ISBN: 978-1-56549-140-3
ISBN: 978-1-56549-139-7
2001/154 pages/LC: 2001038426
A Kumarian Press Book
"A refreshing contribution to the growing debate about the changing nature of work in the global economy. Rather than home-workers seen as marginal, at the edges of current economic change, they are placed right at the center.... The ease with which the narrative moves from macroeconomic analysis to the daily lives of real women is perhaps the book's greatest achievement."—Angla Hale, Manchester Metropolitan University

"Extremely informative and educational. Each chapter knits together multiple strands of analysis, making clear the complexity of women’s lives as workers in a globalizing world."—Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South

"Casts a bright light on the global economy, illuminating the lives of the millions of female workers struggling in low wage jobs in the developing world. Based on painstaking surveys undertaken by an international team of researchers, this novel and indispensable book ensures that the global subcontracting assembly line is hidden no more."—Gerald Epstein, Political Economy Research Institute


The Hidden Assembly Line demonstrates how the impact of current global economic trends—changing production patterns, dictated by multinational corporations and IMF-influenced macroeconomic policies—form the economic reality of many women workers in Asia.

Presenting case studies from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, the contributors analyze household-level changes in women's financial security and work opportunities, provide examples of strategic responses from NGOs, unions, and activists seeking to strengthen the bargaining positions of subcontracted workers, and debate the wide-ranging implications of today’s realities for women's empowerment.


Radhika Balakrishnan is executive director of the Center for Women's Global Leadership and professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University.


  • Introduction—R. Balakrishnan.
  • Subcontracting: The Push-Pull Factor—R. Balakrishnan and A. Sayeed.
  • Subcontracted Work and Gender Relations: The Case of Pakistan—S.G. Khattak.
  • Women Subcontracted Workers in Sri Lanka—S. Jayaweera.
  • The View from Below: Impact of the Financial Crisis on Subcontracted Workers in the Philippines—R. Pineda Ofreneo, JY. Lim, L.A. Gula.
  • Subcontracted Women Workers in the Garment Industry in India—J. Unni and N. Bali.