The urban female labour market in Latin America: the myth and the reality
Latin America has partly overcome the short-term adjustment stage following the external debt crisis and is now in a stage of restructuring marked by opening up to external markets. These changes, which have included the reorganization of production processes, with the incorporation of new technologies, have altered the composition of the labour market and had a strong impact on women's labour participation. One of the most noticeable effects has been what is known as the ''feminization of the labour force'' . The broad structural trends, at times magnified by the crisis and adjustment processes, have brought about a shift in the urban labour market, and particularly female participation, which exhibits differences from male participation. On the basis of information from household surveys conducted in 13 countries of the region between 1980 and 1994, this study describes the major developments in labour participation by gender. In the second part of the paper, the author makes an empirical analysis of six assertions --- the result of context gaps and time gaps --- that continue to figure in the debate on female labour in the region even though the rapid pace of change has transformed them into mere myths. The study also addresses a number of '' areas of confrontation'' , where the inequality between men and women is starkest: income, access to new technologies and their use, and the increasing insecurity of certain types of work such as domestic service, home work and own-account activities. Lastly, the author summarizes the major issues, makes some methodological recommendations and poses a series of questions as to the significance of these changes in the social, family, political and cultural spheres.