Economic Success of Women Machinists: The Case Study of Garment Factories in Katunayake Free Trade Zone, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has several Free Trade Zones (FTZ) which contain different manufacturing operations, including garment factories. In the garment factories, most of the employees on the factory floor are women who work as machinists. Although the garment industry contributes heavily to earning foreign currency for the economy, society generally perceives that the women in garment factories come from rural villages intending to achieve success in their lives but end up with an unsuccessful life in terms of the economic situation. Despite this common perception, the reality might prove to be different. Thus, this research addresses the issue whether the women machinists in garment factories in Katunayake FTZ have achieved economic success in life. The study adopted qualitative methodology and the research strategy is the case study method. This research study is conducted in a natural environment to identify whether the life of a garment factory woman is a success or a failure. Twelve women machinists who have worked more than one year in the Katunayake FTZ are taken as the sample, and semi-structured interviews have been used as the data collection technique. Coding and thematic analysis are the techniques used for analysing data. Most importantly, the findings revealed that, with their stable monthly income, women workers have experienced economic independence and autonomy in making decisions within the family. Thus, they have utilised their earnings to ensure the wellbeing of their families, especially that of the children and parents. Furthermore, they have experienced social mobility as they have been warmly welcomed by the villagers when they visit their home, which they did not experience before being employed. With the above findings, it can be concluded that women machinists have achieved economic success in their lives as a result of being employed in garment factories in FTZ's.
Keywords: Women Machinists, Women Labour, Garment Industry, Economic Success, Free Trade Zone