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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 34 / 46

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470                           Politics of Latin America

certainly contributed to this decline. Contemporary labor law does little to reverse employer hostility to union labor, union fragmentation, and limits on union activities. About the only significant advance has been a law per­mitting the existence of labor confederations. Changes in the composition of the economy also mitigate against organized labor. These include the ex­pansion of seasonal labor (in agriculture and the fishing and tourist indus­tries, for example); deindustrialization as a result of Chile's free-market eco­nomic model; the stagnation of economic sectors with a tradition of strong unions, such as the mining sector; and the growth of economic sectors with a tradition of weak unionization, such as services and commerce.

In addition to these traditional issues, the Concertacion also embraced new social movements whose issues had received scant, if any, recognition by the military government. During the military government, the feminist, en­vironmental, and indigenous people's movements mostly aligned with op­position political forces. They survived by establishing nongovernmental or­ganizations that carried out research and organized people. The military government suffered their presence, kept them under close surveillance, and usually ignored their policy recommendations. But because of their con­nections to the political parties of the Concertacion, once Chile redemocra-tized many of these researchers and activists were called upon to formulate policy in their respective areas of expertise. They headed and staffed the technical commissions that drafted the electoral platform and governing pro­gram of the Concertacion on gender, environment, and indigenous peoples. Later, they entered public service in government agencies created by the Aylwin administration to address these issues.

However, both the issues and the new state agencies were well subordi­nated to traditional socioeconomic and political concerns such as economic growth and the consolidation of political democracy. None gained cabinet status and some had only administrative budgets, meaning they could not execute policy. They could only propose policy to the relevant ministries, which may or may not act upon those proposals.

The feminist movement played an important part in the mass mobiliza­tion against the military government and in generating support for the Con­certacion during the 1988 plebiscite. In the governments of the Concertacion, gender issues have received far more attention than in the past. In January 1991, the Aylwin administration created the National Women's Service (Ser-vicio Nacional de la Mujer, SERNAM). Its mandate was to incorporate a gen­der perspective into public policy. SERNAM's immediate focus was to reduce discrimination against women in access to employment, housing, education, and credit. Longer term objectives were aimed at improving the position of women with respect to men. They included dismantling institu­tionally rooted gender inequalities that hindered equal rights for women, easing the responsibility of females for home and childcare, and stopping the sexual division of labor by integrating women into the labor market.

SERNAM did not gain cabinet rank and only had an administrative bud­get. During the Aylwin administration SERNAM proposed gender-specific

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