Gender and social dumping practices, as reflected in journalistic investigations on the construction and textile industries


  • Redanka-Erika VARGA


social dumping, neoliberal capitalism, investigative journalism, investigative documentary, gender at work, offshoring


The present study sets out to explore two highly gendered, seemingly contrasting industries, construction and textile, with workforces that showcase distinct issues yet can be brought together by their mistreatment in the name of profit through labour made cheap by social dumping practices. The starting point for this research were four investigative documentaries on the two industries, uncovering a wide array of unethical practices: Race to the Bottom (2014), In the Construction Pit (2015), The True Cost (2015) and Clothes to Die For (2014). Hence, the impact of the pressures of profit-led globalised economies and the flexibility of labour longed for by the neoliberal and capitalist principles, disproportionately carried by the more vulnerable, will be addressed from socioeconomic and cultural perspectives, especially through the use of documentaries and existent journalistic work. Social dumping undertakings and the gender problematization will be exemplified by relevant case studies, namely Atlanco Rimec in the Netherlands, respectively the case of the second biggest exporter in the textile industry, Bangladesh. The former allows for a comprehensive look at social dumping practices in Western Europe’s construction industry and helps give an account for gender considerations regarding masculine norms that can both represent a glass escalator and be toxically capitalised on, the hypothesis of worsening working conditions in the field due to the increased vulnerability of the majority of the workforce in light of evasive practices and the continued lack of openness to female workers. The latter case study was chosen due to availability of information and the tragic Rana Plaza factory building collapse, which illustrates the phenomenon of relocation of production, alongside the injustices and traumatic experiences of the predominantly female labour force, revealing debatable notions of both emancipation and exploitation, while confirming the continued preference to traditionally considered male gender norms and their domination even in typically female occupations.