Global Policy Forum

Export Processing Zones



Picture Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Articles | 2009 | 2007 | 2005 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001




Factory Fire and Police Killings Fuel Discontent among Bangladeshi Garment Workers (December 22, 2010)

Four Bangladeshi garment workers, demonstrating for increased pay and better working conditions, were fatally wounded as riot police fired on striking employees. Two days later, a fire in an Export Processing Zone near the capital of Dhaka killed 30 workers, highlighting the need for better regulation of the industry. Developing countries routinely compete against each other for contracts from large multinational firms, so workers' rights and environmental conditions inevitably get ignored. Groups such as Amnesty International are applying increasing pressure to hold the Bangladeshi government accountable. (Just International)



Sri Lankan Export Zone Workers Hit by Job and Pay Cuts (July 14, 2009)

Factories at the Biyagama Export Processing Zone are reducing their workforce to protect their profits in the economic crisis. Workers face a wave of job losses, cuts in pay and reduced work hours. Reduced wages force them to take double-shifts and speed up the pace of their work.(World Socialist Website)


Export Processing Zones Still a Bone of Contention (April 30, 2007)

Inter Press Service reports on the frequent labor violations that occur in the export processing zones (EPZs) of East Africa. The EPZs aim to attract "export-oriented investments" with the goal of increasing foreign currency earnings and providing employment to peoples in underdeveloped countries. However, many critics argue that such goals have not been met and in reality EPZs exploit workers while providing cheap labor and tax breaks to foreign corporations. The author argues that while some reforms have been made by the Kenyan government there are many issues that still need to be addressed.


After Violence SEZs Downsized (April 6, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article reports on the Indian government's decision to impose limits on the size of special economic zones (SEZs) as well as end the compulsory acquisition of land – a method often used by provincial governments to establish such areas. These new regulations are the result of widespread protests that erupted throughout the country following New Delhi's announcement that it would create 300 new SEZs.



"In a Situation Like This, Who Cares About Human Rights?" (October 5, 2005)

The World Bank views Export Processing Zones (EPZ) as an excellent option for poor countries to join the global market. This article describes the conditions of an EPZ on the outskirts of Nairobi, where workers earn three dollars a day without any form of benefits. Rather than liberate people worldwide, the free market has created a new slavery. (Inter Press Service)



Jordan's Sweatshops: The Carrot or the Stick of US Policy? (February 26, 2003)

The 2001 free trade agreement between the United States and Jordan has led to an explosion of so-called "Qualified Industrial Zones," where workers in foreign owned factories produce US consumer goods for about $3.50 a day. Many Jordanians see the free trade agreement as politically motivated to increase US presence in the region. (CorpWatch)


Investor Dollars Versus Workers' Rights (February 21, 2003)

Recent strikes in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Kenya have raised questions about the Kenyan government's commitment to core labor standards versus its desire to attract, and maintain, foreign investment. A US sponsored report confirms that labor conditions in Kenyan EPZs are abysmal, but the government calls the strikes "hooliganism." (Nation (Nairobi))


Trade is a Women's Issue (February 20, 2003)

Bama Athreya of the International Labor Rights Fund argues that women are central to global trade liberalization, but women's rights take a back seat in trade negotiations. 70%-90% of workers in export processing zones are women, who frequently suffer from abuse, harassment, and poor working conditions. (ATTAC)


World Trade Body Ignores Union Appeals Over El Salvador's Treatment of Workers (February 6, 2003)

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) submitted a recent report to the WTO exposing poor labor rights protections in El Salvador, particularly in Export Processing Zones. Ignoring the report altogether, the WTO praised El Salvador for its efforts to open its economy to trade and investment. (OneWorld US)


Anti-China Campaign Hides Maquiladora Wage Cuts (February 3, 2003)

Mexican maquiladoras justify low wages and poor working conditions by warning that companies would otherwise transfer production to China, where labor is comparatively cheap. This argument obscures maquiladoras' vulnerability to the US economic slump, this ZNet article argues.



Race to the Bottom, Second Leg: The Decline of the Maquiladora (April 29, 2002)

Mexico wants to follow countries such as Singapore and Malaysia in "gradually moving up the manufacturing food chain." However, this policy fails to consider the fate of thousands of unemployed Mexicans while the country attempts to move from the cheap labor of maquiladoras towards more sophisticated technology and skilled employees. (Transnationale)

Government Indifferent as Assembly Jobs Flee Mexico (March 11, 2002)

When the government-backed maquiladora industry began to grow a decade ago, critics claimed Mexico needed more than just low-paid jobs to revive the economy. Now the industry is faltering, The News (Mexico) claims the government has simply abandoned its support, ignoring the rapid rise in unemployment in urban areas.

Border Factories Hit Hard By Recession, Winds of Trade (January 23, 2002)

Maquiladoras experience the first production slowdown in 35 years with a 15 % employment drop. US economy slowdown, NAFTA related tax hikes, and China's entry into the World Trade Organization. (Christian Science Monitor)



On the Border of Controversy: Maquiladoras Praised, Criticized for Role in U.S. Visa Process (July 22, 2001)

Maquiladora employers in Mexico help workers obtain visitor visas for the US, but not for altruistic reasons: "Dangling the prospect of a visa before poor laborers buys the maquiladora a more docile work force." (Houston Chronicle)

El Salvador Sees Industry as Pillar in Quake Recovery (July 12, 2001)

Maquiladoras could create new factory jobs after the recent earthquake in El Salvador. But without improving working conditions, employers will exploit local workers instead of fostering development, leaving the country worse off than before. (Los Angeles Times)

Uncertainty and Growth in Mexico's Maquiladora Sector (March, 2001)

Taxation uncertainties, stricter environmental enforcement and a rise in real wages threaten the competitiveness of maquiladora companies. However, employment rates continue to rise impressively, indicating growth in the industry as a whole. (Borderlines)




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