Accepted paper:

Constructing an Economic Boom: Industrialization, Housing, and the Reproduction of Labor in an Ethiopian City


Daniel Mains (University of Oklahoma)

Paper short abstract:

Booms in Ethiopia's national economy and textile manufacturing industry depend on the labor of young rural women. This paper examines the techniques employed by the Ethiopian state to reproduce women's labor and maintain rapid economic growth.

Paper long abstract:

During the past decade Ethiopia has had one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the world. Industrialization in the form of textile manufacturing is a key component of the Ethiopian state's plans to transform this economic boom into long-term growth. This paper examines struggles over labor, housing, and real estate that have emerged around the Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP). Just one year after opening the HIP hosts eighteen international companies specializing in textile manufacture. Thirteen thousand people work at the park and park officials expect sixty thousand jobs to be created. The young rural women employed at the park are the foundation for multiple intersecting booms - the national economy, the textile industry, and Hawassa's housing market. It is largely an abundance of extremely cheap labor that has attracted international companies to Ethiopia. The state recruits young women from small towns and rural areas to work in factories that manufacture textiles for international markets. Ethiopian women's labor is not intrinsically cheap. Rather, it is cheap because the cost of reproducing labor is low in urban Ethiopia. Or, more accurately, a continual struggle is underway to minimize the cost of the reproduction of labor in a context of rapid urban growth and rising real estate prices. This paper examines government techniques for reproducing labor that are intended to maintain an economic boom. These techniques place the burden of reproducing women's labor on their families, private citizens, and the residents of informal settlements.

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