Uncertain gains: Labor in Chile's new export sectors

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Abstract

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
Volume36
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

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