In Taiwan, small-scale subcontracting factories of thirty employees or less make items for export, like the wooden jewelry boxes that Ping-Chun Hsiung made when she worked in six such factories. These factories are found in rice fields and urban areas, front yards and living rooms, mostly employing married women in line with the government slogan that promotes work in the home—"Living Rooms as Factories."
Hsiung studies the experiences of the married women who work in this satellite system of factories, and how their work and family lives have contributed to Taiwan's 9.1 percent GNP growth over the last three decades, the "economic miracle." This vivid portrayal of the dual lives of these women as wives, mothers, daughters-in-law and as manufacturing workers also provides sophisticated analyses of the links between class and gender stratification, family dynamics, state policy, and global restructuring within the process of industrialization.
Hsiung uses ethnographic data to illustrate how, in this system of intersecting capitalist logic and patriarchal practices, some Taiwanese women experience upward mobility by marrying into the owners' family, while others remain home and wage workers. Although women in both groups acknowledge gender inequality, this commonality does not bridge divergent class affiliations. Along with a detailed account of the oppressive labor practices, this book reveals how workers employ clandestine tactics to defy the owners' claims on their labor.