Pay and purdah : women and income earning in Bangladesh : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University

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Massey University
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The purpose of this study was threefold: first, to identify factors which caused some rural women to obtain paid employment and not others; second, to discover the problems faced by those involved in income earning and third to find out what the economic and social impact had been on the lives of these women and their households. A single major hypothesis, an expression of the sociological approach adopted in this study, provides a continuous theme. It is that economic factors predominate the explanations sought in this thesis, more especially in explaining why women seek income earning and what kind of jobs they prefer. A sample of 158 women of a village, out of a total of 911, was selected on the basis of a systematic stratified random sampling technique and was studied by using social survey and ethnographic methods. Neelganj was one of the poorest villages of Bangladesh. Only a few villagers had agricultural land, the most important means of production in rural areas, the majority were engaged in occupations other than farming. Economic need was found to be the most important reason for women's income earning. It was the expressed reason given by women and their guardians. Inflation, death of the major breadwinner, dowry, divorce, in the absence of social security, aggravated the economic needs of women. Women of all ages were income earners. Widowed, divorced and separated women were more frequent among female income earners. Twenty two women had no male guardians and were the only income earners of their households. A variety of activities was pursued by women. Lack of capital, insufficient orders and seasonal work affected women's income earning. A large number of unemployed women was interested in working, some were desperately in need of money. Lack of job opportunities, shortage of capital and domestic responsibilities were the major reasons for women's unemployment. Though women's income was important and brought economic relief to their households, this did not make much difference to their social status or expectations about women's role in society. Attitudes of villagers were favourable towards women's income earning. Activities which could be done inside the home were preferred for women. Villagers generally were of the opinion that government should be much more active in the field of women's employment.
Employment, Bangladesh, Rural women