Labor Force Participation of Married Women in Punjab (Pakistan)

Article excerpt

Abstract. This paper highlights the factors that influence the decision of married women (in the age group of 16-60 years) to participate in labor force activities. Employing the probit model on 3911 observations it is found that women's age, women as head of the household, women's education, household poverty, family size, number of girls (5-15 years), number of daughters over 15 years of age, husband's unemployment and low income, and rural locality have a significant positive effect on labor force participation of married women. On the other hand, ownership of assets by the household, household per capita income, being a nuclear family, number of infants, number of sons over 15 years of age, and husband's education have shown a negative effect. Poverty in an overall perspective is found to be the major determinant of the labor force participation of married women.

JEL Classification Codes: J16, J22, J13, O15.

Keywords: Women, Economics of Gender, Labor Supply, Female Employment, Poverty.

1. Introduction

Labor force participation of women in Pakistan is very low as they suffer from a paucity of opportunities. In particular, women' access to the labor market is determined by rigid gender-role ideologies, social and cultural restrictions on women' mobility and integration in the work place, segmented labor markets, lack of skills, and employers' gender biases that attach a lower value to female labor due to their family responsibilities. The female labor force participation rate in Pakistan is exceptionally low at just 14.4 %, compared to 70.3 % for males,1 while the unemployment rate is 16.5 % for females and 6.7 % for males (FBS 2003:15, 30). The share of women's earnings in household earned income is 26 % of male earnings, while their economic activity rate as a percentage of that of males is 40 % (MHDC, 2000). The incidence of poverty among women is higher than with men and is characterized by unemployment, discrimination in the labor market, and limited access to economic opportunities, among others. Women are largely neglected in the social, economic, political and legal spheres. They have gained disproportionately from the development process. Pakistan needs to go a long way to achieve a balanced and sustainable development scenario (Mahmood and Nayab, 1998). For women, the access to money-earning activities, amongst others, is an important means to improve their position (Polachek and Robst, 1997). Furthermore, employment is the main bridge between economic growth and opportunities for human development (UNDP, 1996). One of the factors that boosted growth rates in the Asian tigers was the rapidly rising female labor force participation rate (Young, 1995). The access of mothers to income-generating opportunities impacts positively on the well-being of children, particularly daughters, indicating that parents' relative bargaining positions affect children's gender equity (Thomas, 1990; Haddad and Haddinot, 1995). Female mortality is inversely related to female labor force participation (Rosenzweig and Schultz, 1982; Kishore, 1993). A higher female labor force participation lessens gender bias in child survival (Murthi et. al. 1995). This draws attention to the analysis of women's work which is generally more variable than men's and is also disadvantaged.

1.1. Implications of Women Labor Force Participation

In Pakistan, decision making within the household is predominantly regarded as a male prerogative. That is why women labor force participation is ranked lowest in South Asia. Conceptually the women labor force participation in developing countries has a number of implications. Firstly, it results in an increased strengthening of women' position in the family and society due to their financial capacity, which in turn contributes to economic development. Secondly, on the negative side, the increase in women labor force participation corresponds to a deterioration in working conditions, emergence of low skilled jobs and inadequate opportunities for women to achieve vertical mobility. …