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Women as industrial labour: an enquiry into economic and social consequences of growth of garments manufacturing in Bangladesh

Over the last quarter century, the readymade garments industry has emerged as the main export-earning manufacturing industry in Bangladesh. The industry is the first to employ women in large numbers in the formal manufacturing sector. Using information collected by the author from readymade garments firms, women workers and a group of non-working women, this thesis investigates the factors behind women’s labour market entry, their earnings and subsequent impact on the lives of women and their households. The analytical framework has largely drawn upon economic models of utility maximisation. Various econometric methods have been used in empirical investigation of the issues. The results show that labour market entry by women is mediated by several factors including poverty and education. Their earnings depend upon both education and work experience. Most working women have had several rises in wages over their working lives. Independent earning by women has resulted in several second round effects, mostly in the positive direction, on the women themselves and their households. Women who keep their earnings to themselves spend the money on items such as food and health care. They have accumulated substantially more assets and savings than their non-working counterparts. They have also enjoyed a physical quality of life better than that of the non-working women and also their (workers’) own initial situation. A very important effect of women’s employment, and the rise in their explicit opportunity cost of time, is that they have far lower fertility compared to non-working women. The lower fertility has been associated with greater demand for education for children. The health of workers may have been impaired due to a combination of long hours of market work and home production. Other social impacts such, as changes in decision-making roles and independence of action have been limited. Employment and education are the most important determinants of the positive impacts on the women themselves and their households. Future policy directions may therefore widen employment and education opportunities for women.
Type of thesis
Zaman, B. M. (2002). Women as industrial labour: an enquiry into economic and social consequences of growth of garments manufacturing in Bangladesh (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14167
The University of Waikato
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