Uncertain gains: Labor in Chile's new export sectors

Rachel A. Schurman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Natural-resource-based export-oriented growth strategies have resurfaced as the dominant development approach in Latin America. While a growing literature exists on the economic, equity, gender, and environmental impacts of this development strategy, insufficient attention has been paid to its significance for labor. This article seeks to help fill this gap by analyzing its effects on Chilean workers. Based on a study of the fruit, forestry, and fishing sectors, my work shows that this type of development strategy can be very labor-absorbing and can offer significant benefits for labor when it leads to "agro-industrialization." Nonetheless, although working conditions clearly improved after the late 1980s, it is likely that the first decade of the twenty-first century will not be a repeat of the 1990s. The hypercompetition that now characterizes these sectors is putting tremendous pressure on firms to reduce costs, including that of labor. Stripped of basic state protections and left with little social power, Chilean workers are much more vulnerable than they were before.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-29
Number of pages27
JournalLatin American Research Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank Patrick Barrett, Peter Evans, Michael Goldman, Lovell Jarvis, Raka Ray, Bernard Schurman, David Tecklin, and four anonymous LARR reviewers for their useful comments on an earlier draft. I also appreciate Samuel Martland's and David Tecklin's able research assistance. Funding for this project was provided by the Hellman Family Faculty Fund at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Research Board at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


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