Special issue :Gender, Labour and Precarity in the South East European Periphery: the Case of Textile Workers in Štip

The paper investigates the living and working conditions of textile workers in the city of Štip, Macedonia. The textile industry was highly developed during socialist times, but underwent a process of decline after the Yugoslav break-up. While it still represents a relevant economic sector for post-socialist Macedonia, the textile industry is highly dependent on outsourced orders from Western Europe. Local workers’ living and labour conditions, therefore, are affected by the global ‘race to the bottom’ for production costs that is typical of the garment industry. On the basis of a series of interviews conducted in Skopje and Štip with workers and factory owners, the article argues that contemporary working conditions in the Macedonian textile industry are characterised by poor labour rights, gender discrimination and widespread precarity. In contrast to the current circumstances, working and living conditions during socialist times are positively remembered by workers, who claim that their social status and living standards have deteriorated in the course of the last twenty years. This narrative of precarity is also partially shared by local entrepreneurs, who emphasise the global and local obstacles that hinder the development of the textile industry in Macedonia.

Chiara Bonfiglioli

Chiara Bonfiglioli

Chiara Bonfiglioli is currently Rubicon Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, within the framework of the CITSEE project (The Europeanisation of Citizenship in the Successor States of the Former Yugoslavia). From December 2014, she will be a Newfelpro post-doctoral fellow at the Juraj Dobrila University of Pula, Croatia, within the Centre for Cultural and Historical Research of Socialism (CKPIS). She holds a BA in Political Sciences from the University of Bologna, Italy, and an MA and PhD in Gender Studies from Utrecht University, The Netherlands. She has published extensively on women’s and feminist history in the European context, focusing specifically on Italy and the Balkans.

1. What is the ‘race to the bottom’ in the global garment industry and how is it affecting textile workers in Macedonia?
2. What are the features of the lohn or Outward Processing Trade process (OPT)?
3. How did the garment industry transform in the city of Štip in the last thirty years?
4. What are the differences between past and present working conditions?
5. Why can we talk of ‘gendered discrimination’ in the Macedonian garment industry?

Bonfiglioli, Chiara. 2013. Gendering Social Citizenship: Textile Workers in Post-Yugoslav States, CITSEE Working Papers Series, University of Edinburgh, 2013/30.
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Musiolek, Bettina. 2000. Tools for Enforcing Labour Rights and Ensuring Corporate Social Responsibility in the Garment Sector: The South-East European Context. SEER- South-East Europe Review for Labour and Social Affairs, 3(3), 123-135.
Saveski, Zdravko. 2005. The process of the reduction of workers’ rights in Macedonia in the period 1993-2003, SEER- South-East Europe Review, 2, 95-109.


Southeastern Europe