Women Research Institute

Promoting women leadership and inclusive,
gender-based, and sustainable natural resource governance

Moral Economy of Women at the Factory: Social Dynamics at the Workplace (1)




This essay is based on the research findings on women workers by several researchers from Women Research Institute (WRI) who used a feminist method. The case study on women workers, who migrated from the village to the city, and several challenges in the industrial world and the urban life was not only a means to gain a deeper understanding on the life struggles of women workers, but also an effort to reveal and draw attention to their inner voices. This essay does not only discuss the strategy of survival of women workers in the industrial relation context; but more than that – the association between them and consumptive behavior, organizational activities, and pragmatic issues in the city.



This study is based on several questions, namely how women workers free themselves from the agricultural world, how women workers adjust themselves to the industrial environment, what their strategies are to survive in metropolitan cities, and how women workers position themselves when they leave the village for the city. The context of surviving in cities is not only based on economy per se, but also on social cultural strategies that they develop. Therefore, the economic aspect, the social relation in terms of social capital, consumptive behavior and women’s lifestyle in the city should be understood in a more comprehensive manner. Everything is related and, therefore, difficult to be separated with one another. All this is of great importance to both academic interests and advocacy.


It is commonly known that a majority of advocacy pattern used today prioritizes the strategies of women workers, and is not based on the women's characters. Yet, their characters, formed by their long journeys from the village to the city, are largely adorned with survival efforts. To a certain degree, this formed an industrial sub-culture unique to women workers.


To overlook the women workers’ subculture while prioritizing the interests and agenda of another party will actually be contradictory to the workers’ interests. Moreover, we tend to recognize laborers as a social element placed in the relation of production per se, when in fact it is getting harder to differentiate the way of thinking and consumptive behavior of women workers from the other social classes. The women workers’ “lifestyle” appears to be increasingly similar with other social classes that sociologically dominate them. This can be observed from, for instance, their tendency to shop at grocery stores, repeatedly change cellphones, hang out with friends at the mall, and various other consumptive behavior in the context of modern society. WRI’s research team seeks to reveal all these phenomena in a descriptive manner. By using a “descriptive approach”, the character or behavior of women workers – be it at the workplace, residence, or public sphere – can be seen clearly. We will thus gain an empiric knowledge, which will provide a bigger space for interpretation in a wider context.



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