Women’s Employment and
Peripheralisation: the Case of Ireland’s
Branch Plant Economy.
Geoforum, 24 (1).
The mobilisation of reserves of unskilled women workers played a key role
in the new international division of labour which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.
This is illustrated in the case of the branch plant economy which emerged in the
Republic of Ireland after 1960. There has been rapid growth in female employment
in the electrical engineering sector which is dominated by foreign firms. A case study
of the electronics industry reveals strong gender segmentation and a heavy reliance
on assembly work carried out mostly by women. High levels of trade union
membership have had little impact on the inferior status of women in this industry.
Dominance by foreign firms has created very limited employment opportunities for
women at local level. The automation of assembly work, allied to plans to upgrade
the status of branch plant activities in Ireland, will further restrict women’s employment
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