Does Employment Empower Women? An Analysis of Employment and Women's Empowerment in India

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This study explores the relationship between women?s empowerment and employment in India. The current rhetoric of women?s ?empowerment? in developing countries calls for greater participation and decision-making in the economic, political and social spheres. In the economic sphere, paid employment is seen as essential to women?s empowerment.
Research on the relationship between employment and empowerment often focuses on access to employment opportunities and working conditions at the societal level, and on a woman?s control over resources and contribution to total family earnings in the household.
In Malhotra and Mather?s (1997) analysis of the impact of education and work in women?s decision-making in Sri Lanka, a combination of survey data, focus groups and life histories are used to test the relationship between employment and empowerment. They find that education and employment are important determinants of women?s decision-making in terms of finances, but not in terms of household decisions related to social or organization matters. They conclude that research on the links between education and employment and empowerment must include broader measures of education and empowerment and incorporate a greater breadth of social, household and life course factors relevant to gender and family relations. This study uses Demographic Health Survey (DHS) data from India to empirically analyze the link between labor force participation and women?s empowerment at the individual level for ever-married women age 15-49. Employment is unpacked and includes occupation and a number of employment characteristics to demonstrate important differences in outcomes for women?s empowerment across various aspects of what ?working? consists of. This study asks the question, when does employment empower women and when does it not, and in what ways? In this study empowerment is measured across four indicators: decision-making, freedom of movement, control over resources and views on violence against women. Ordered logit models are used to first assess the relationship between employment status and women?s empowerment across the four empowerment indicators, and then to look at the association between various occupational classifications and empowerment. Subsequent models measure the relationship between employment and empowerment by looking at the interaction between occupation and who the respondent works for and then, in the fourth model specification, including women?s contribution to total family income.
The results of this study suggest that working is important to empowerment and that women who work have a greater likelihood of higher empowerment than those women that do not, but that the strength of the relationship varies by empowerment indicator. The findings of this analysis also reveal that women in certain occupations have a greater likelihood for empowerment and that various employment characteristics are associated with some of the indicators of empowerment. The author concludes that looking deeper into the employment experience and considering a broader range of empowerment indicators is important to developing a better understanding of the complex relationship between employment and empowerment.

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empowerment; employment; India; gender


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Union Local


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dissertation or thesis

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