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Book Review Assignment On The Manufacture Of Poverty Book (Book Review Sample)



The book presents a very timely cover sub title; ‘the untold story of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Kenya’ as it strives to bring to light a very dark side of the EPZ story no one knows about. The book is divided into five chapters.
The first chapter presents the backdrop and methodology. This chapter judicially introduces the reader to the questions that guide the entire study. The authors present questions that are not only sensible but also crucial in understanding the situation in the EPZs; something that many studies fail to do. The study not only scrutinizes the weakened labor laws in Kenya but also questions the fabric of the labor framework for women in the EPZ as well as the purchasing practices of source countries. The authors broaden the rather narrow minded debate by liberalists and conservatives over the outward oriented approach of the economy. While the latter concentrate on perceived benefits of the EPZ’s, the authors delve into the virgin areas of deficiency and suffering of EPZ female workers.
This study takes a bold stance; attempting to prove that various players trade away the rights of women workers amidst the global value chains. From the word go, the study presumes that there exists precarious employment and strives to prove so by capturing the experiences of women workers in the EPZs. Three rather brilliant hypotheses guide the study; that national labor laws and their implementation have been or are being weakened due to pressure from many sides, purchasing practices in global value chains encourage precarious employment and women workers face precarious employment in global value chains and bear the social cost.
The major focus of policy is shown to be the attraction of foreign direct investments leaving loopholes for cost transference to workers. The characteristic of work available is informal and usually pegged on profit because of the capitalistic ‘make profit or die’ nature of the EPZ sector. The uncertainty of the sector necessitates the hiring of minimum skilled workers who can be disposed of and replaced at the snap of a finger.
A human rights based approach is embraced in the analysis of the working conditions and practices in the EPZ sector. True to this, duty bearers are identified and their accountabilities analysed thoroughly with the benchmark set as existing legal instruments which seem to be quite silent as regards EPZ workers conditions or suddenly become just cosmetic documents when issues arise.
The genesis of the EPZ sector is traced back to the 90’s birthedthrough an Act of Parliament in an aim to open up Kenya’s economy to the world. The chapter ends on a rather dramatic note, presenting the counterfactual position showing that EPZ jobs do generate reurns in the economy but at a cost; the lonely, miserable, busy hand-to-mouth lives lived by the workers.
The second chapter delves into liberalization, capital movement and the International monetary fund (IMF) and the World Bank menu. The authors immediately plunge in to demonstrate how Africa has embraced the concept of economic intergation as shown by the ample regional intergrations. In the background critics point this out as a factor worsening Kenyan labor law practices, but with no evidence presented, this is just another drum roll.
Many of theattempts to open up the Kenyan economy are shown to possess frameworks that demand protection of worker’s rights but lack mechanisms to enforce this or involve workers. The menue provided by the World Bank and IMF is given as one that leads to ‘market colonialism’ stripping workerstheir bargaining power. Players such as Bretton Woods institutions are shown to adamantly statethat regulating the labor sector increases production costs and favors insiders thus hinders liberalization. This clearly brings out a disturbing conclusion; that in order to liberalize, labor has to remain unregulated so that its cheap. Why do we adamantly go on then?
Well, the authors explain that Africa is suffers the illusion that opening up their economies like the developed countries did in the past is the road to prosperity. This is somewhat laughable in the sense that when developed countries opened their economies, they backed them up with sound systems to protect their economies from the negative effects of foreign direct investments (FDIs). If we must duplicate, can we not at least do it to completion?
Workers are now in a ‘take it or leave it’ situation presented by a lack of choice and high unemployment. This is worsened by the fact that there is no sound system to protect them. Feeble attemps to resist in the 2003 EPZ workers strike just worsened the situation leaving demands unmet and participants of the strike jobless. Industrial disputes in the EPZ’s usually fade away unsorted with the EPZ Act omitting fundamental workers rights.
The third chapter dubbed purchasing practices and the market mafia clearly shows purchasing practicess that pass risks down the value chain to the helpless EPZ worker.With unstable orders, stiff competition and short lea...
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