Women’s Changing Roles in the Context of Economic Reform and Globalization

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Women’s Changing Roles in the Context of Economic Reform and Globalization

Shahra Razavi

United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)

Palais des Nations

1211 Geneva 10


razavi @unrisd.org

May 2003

(first draft: not to be quoted or cited without permission of author)

Background Paper for the UNESCO Education for All Monitoring Report 2003: Gender and Education for All


The 1980s and 1990s are frequently referred to as the era of globalization. While there is no consensus on what the term “globalization” means, for the purposes of this paper we use the term to refer to the greater openness of economies to international trade and finance, or external liberalization. The question that this paper will be tackling is how globalization has impacted on the growth of real economies in diverse regional contexts (Section One), their capacity to create employment (Section Two), and specifically how the new policy agenda has impacted on women’s labour force participation in diverse regional contexts and their enjoyment of social rights (Sections Three and Four). In addition to the available global data sets, the paper will be drawing on in-depth case studies from around the world in order to support the arguments that are being put forward.

1. International Economic Integration and Economic Growth

The purpose of this section is to look at the growth implications of globalization. However, to begin the discussion we need to clarify how the term globalization is understood in this paper. As Gerald Helleiner (2000) usefully points out, the term globalization as frequently used, confuses two different phenomena. The first is the shrinkage in space and in time that the world has experienced as a result of the technological revolutions in transport, communications and information processing. Globalization in this sense is equated with spatial transformation; and it is certainly true to argue that for a good number of people around the world, the world has become a much smaller place.

The second usage of the term, on the other hand, relates to matters of human policy choice: the degree to which national economies are opened up to external forces and made to rely on global “marketplace magic” (ibid.). Some proponents consider contemporary globalization, in this second sense of the term, to be without historical precedent, as well as being inevitable and, on the whole, desirable.
On the question globalization in history, it would be wrong to see contemporary processes as entirely new. In fact, the process of international economic integration from the last third of the nineteenth century until the outbreak of the First World War, surpassed many of the contemporary indices of globalization, albeit perhaps not at the same pace; and interestingly, globalization from the late nineteenth century involved far more trans-border labour flows and greater human migration than currently allowed by most national governments (Jomo 2003) (Hirst and Thompson 1994). This is not to suggest that there is nothing new about contemporary globalization; there have been both quantitative and qualitative changes in global connectivity that point to the significance of the monumental changes currently taking place (Scholte 2002).
The second, more controversial point, relates to the inevitability and desirability of globalization. It is now widely recognized that the policy agenda associated with “globalization” has been driven by a particular ideological disposition (namely neoliberal) which is deeply economistic in its worldview and dedicated to a particular kind of economic thinking, namely laissez-faire market economics (Scholte 2002). The neoliberal agenda, which can be described as an amalgam of neoclassical economics (providing most of its analytical tools) and the Austrian Libertarian tradition (providing its moral and political philosophy), began in the 1970s and rose to dominance from the early 1980s (Chang 2001). It presumes that the best way to give substance to human rights is to reduce the role of the state, liberate entrepreneurial energy, achieve economic efficiency and promote faster economic growth (Elson 2002). But as more than two decades of experimentation around the world has shown, the neoliberal policy agenda in its various dimensions involves political, economic and social choices (hence it is neither inevitable, nor automatic or natural in any sense), the effects of which have been neither uniform for all places and times nor uncontested.
The arguments for further globalization have been premised on the beneficial outcomes—in terms of economic growth, employment and human welfare—expected to flow from greater openness. In this section we look at the evidence on economic growth.
A comparison of regional growth rates for the period 1960-1980, when developing countries were pursuing dirigiste policies (import substitution industrialization, for example), with those for the 1980-2000 period, when they were enticed to open up to world markets, raises a number of important questions. In Latin America, for example, GDP per capita grew by 75 percent from 1960-1980, whereas in the subsequent period (1980-2000) it has only risen by 6 percent; the equivalent figures for sub-Saharan Africa are 36 percent and 15 percent respectively (Weisbrot et al. 2000). In fact, the only region that shows higher growth rates in the latter period is East Asia, which grew faster from 1980 to 1998 than in the previous two decades—explained by China’s quadrupling of GDP over the last 18 years (ibid.). But China has taken a far more gradualist approach to liberalization than is routinely advocated by the international financial and trade institutions. The lessons that may be legitimately drawn from the Chinese experience will not therefore provide categorical support for all-out global integration along the lines advocated by the mainstream institutions (Jomo 2003).
The disappointing growth record of the past two decades has been attributed to the recessionary (or deflationary) character of the macroeconomic policy agenda during this period, which has prioritized fiscal restraint and high interest rates. It is now more widely admitted that harsh stabilization policies that were routinely dictated to indebted developing countries by the international financial institutions may have dampened hyperinflation, but at a high social cost as incomes, wages and employment went into sharp decline. In some countries (e.g. Mexico, Russia, East Asia) these negative trends were aggravated by unregulated, short-term capital flows that left massive social and economic dislocation in their wake. These persistent “booms in busts” have been in response to the much greater cross-border capital flows relative to GDP compared to previous decades, at least for the OECD countries and the developing countries known as “emerging markets”. It is for the latter group of countries that the strains caused by financial crises have been particularly high (given the weakness of their financial systems). For example, in the case of the Mexican crisis of 1994, uncontrolled capital flight led to the devaluation of the currency and the collapse of the economy that could only be halted by a $50 billion rescue package from the US. While the financial crisis was short-lived for investors, it had far-reaching effects on the Mexican banking system, interest rates and prospects for longer-term economic recovery; it also meant increased vulnerability and slow (or negative) growth for other countries in the region that have become highly dependent on short-term foreign investment (UNRISD 2000).
The point to retain from this brief discussion is that policies associated with globalization have not been uniformly associated with growth and accumulation. Quite contrary to what was often claimed and expected, for most developing countries the economic record of the past two decades has been marked by low rates of economic growth and recession. This section of the paper has considered some of the plausible explanations for the recessionary character of the 1980s and 1990s. But we know that economic growth is not in itself sufficient to achieve social goals. What matters—if the benefits are to be widely shared—is the quality of growth: whether it entails a more equal distribution of income, more and better jobs, rising wages, more gender equality and social inclusiveness (UNRISD 2000). In the following sections we will therefore be looking more specifically at social development, initially by focusing on the employment record.
However one point that can be said with confidence is that with very low or negative rates of growth it will be extremely difficult for countries to undertake policies that can significantly reduce poverty and inequality and enhance the standard of living—the fiscal resources needed to set up comprehensive social programs, for example, will be much more difficult to muster when growth is sluggish. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that redistributive policies (such as agrarian reform, progressive income taxation, and redistributive and comprehensive social policies) have become increasingly marginalized from the policy agenda under the new ideological hegemony.

2. International Economic Integration and Employment

Deciphering and assessing the employment record of the past two decades is a complex task due to data deficiencies for much of the informal economy which is hegemonic in many developing countries, as well as differing perspectives as to what constitutes “progress” and “regress” in this context. It is not surprising therefore that the literature has been sharply divided and the debate highly charged. This short section will present a brief assessment of the employment record based on the existing macro-level data sets produced by organizations such as the ILO and the World Bank, before turning to a more elaborate discussion of women’s employment in Section 3.

As was noted in Section 1, for many parts of the developing world, the 1980s and 1990s were marked by a deceleration in economic activity. With falling or stagnant growth, people tend to move out of the formal sector and crowd into the informal economy where rates of remuneration and working conditions tend to be worse. Such changes in employment status, however, are not necessarily captured through standard labour force statistics, especially in developing countries where unemployment is not a serious option. In the absence of universal unemployment benefits the necessity of earning an income forces poor people to take up any work that they can find, regardless of the pay and the working conditions. Some of this work in the informal economy may show up as labour force participation in the “services” sector. In a recent paper that tries to understand the dynamics of contemporary capitalism by tracking the structure of the labour force, Terry Byres (Byres 2003) finds industrialization to be proceeding at a very slow place in much of the developing world.1 Moreover, in those countries where industrialization is proceeding, he finds that the capacity of the manufacturing sector to absorb labour tends to be limited (hence the phenomenon of “jobless growth”), while a disproportionate section of the work force appears under the heterogeneous heading of “services”. This is how Byres explains his findings:
The shift to services suggests unfortunate implications, with the likelihood that real incomes there are likely to be significantly less than in manufacturing industry. Resort to “services” may simply reflect an inability to maintain employment in agriculture, allied to a lack of employment opportunities in industry and a desperate effort to turn to anything that might be available (which happens to fall into the “services” rubric). (Byres 2003: 200)
There are of course many well-known drawbacks in using macro-level statistical evidence. Nevertheless, the findings of this study are supported by other evidence, some of it based on in-depth survey research. For example, one of the unmistakable trends that has been taking place in many parts of the developing world over the past two decades is the diversification of livelihoods and the increasing importance of off-farm income sources (Ellis 1998). Moreover, such trends do not appear to be confined to the more urbanized societies of, for example, Latin America. They are also palpable in the more “agrarian” regions of the developing world, such as sub-Saharan Africa. Survey findings from a diverse range of African countries suggest a surge in non-agricultural income sources, coinciding with the demise of commercial agriculture, over the past fifteen years when structural adjustment policies have been implemented (a rather perverse outcome for policies that were supposed to end “urban bias” and “get prices right” for agriculture) as well as a proliferation of income earners within rural households (Bryceson 1999). These survey findings reveal that “the vast majority of households have one or more non-agricultural income sources, be it active participation in trade, service provisioning or craft work, or more passive receipt of a transfer payment in the form of a state pension or remittances from relations” (ibid: 11). Given the increasing importance of labour force participation outside agriculture, analysts underline the increasing importance of literacy, numeracy, knowledge of the national language and various occupational and computer skills to give people the means to command income and enhance labour productivity (ibid.)—in short the need for state policy to enhance people’s capabilities (Sen 1985).
Byres’ conclusions regarding the manufacturing sector in developing countries is interesting in view of the widespread perception—at least amongst the general public in the North—that processes of trade liberalization over the past two decades together with the relocation of capital from the North to the South (where labour is cheaper), have contributed to a significant North-South shift in the structure of global manufacturing production. As Jayati Ghosh argues, the effects of such global integration on workers in the South have generally been taken to be unambiguously positive, in terms of increasing employment opportunities, especially for less-skilled workers (Ghosh 2003).
However, the existing empirical evidence indicates that for the vast majority of developing countries manufacturing employment has actually stagnated or declined over the past decade (UNCTAD 1999, UNCTAD 2001). Although important exceptions can be cited—such as China and some other East Asian countries—the employment situation has been worsening in many other parts of the developing world. A recent paper that uses both UNIDO and ILO datasets, and examines patterns of manufacturing employment expansion, indicates that with the exception of a handful of countries—namely, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Chile—many of the even supposedly “dynamic” developing countries in Asia and Latin America experienced only a low to moderate employment growth in manufacturing, and that for several countries (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, South Africa) such employment actually declined in absolute numbers over the said period (1985-1998) (Ghosh 2003). One of the tables from this paper is reproduced below.2

Table 1: Growth rates of paid employment in manufacturing
Country Period Annual rate of growth

China, People’s Rep 1985-94 4.8

Malaysia 1981-94 7.3

Indonesia 1980-89 9.8

Thailand 1981-93 7.3

Philippines 1981-93 0.9

South Korea 1980-90 4.4

India 1980-90 1.4

Sri Lanka 1980-97 2.8

Brazil 1985-98 -6.8

Colombia 1980-97 0.4

Mexico 1985-98 2.9

Kenya 1980-97 2.5

South Africa 1980-93 -0.1

Zimbabwe 1980-97 1.3
Source: Calculated from ILO, Yearbooks of Labour Statistics, cited in (Ghosh 2003)

The important point to note about the data cited above is that it refers to net job creation or destruction, and not just the employment created in the export-oriented manufacturing sub-sector. It thus includes any job loss as a result of import penetration. What the data on employment growth for even the more dynamic economies seems to be indicating is that the perception that the recent period has seen a significant expansion of manufacturing employment in the South does not seem to be warranted.3

An important factor contributing to this poor performance has been the trend towards import liberalization in many developing countries, which has facilitated a rapid surge in imports. Many of the newly deregulated imports into the South may have displaced the small-scale and highly employment-intensive domestic producers who are unable to compete in international markets (Ghosh 2003). In other words, in many developing countries, the consequent job losses (from import competition) may have been quite significant, and may not have been compensated by the expansion in export employment. Thus the net outcome in terms of employment has been low or even negative (ibid.).
Given this relatively poor employment record, it is not surprising to find micro-level research documenting increasing numbers of people—both men and women—crowding into the so-called informal economy. In India, for example, during the decade of the economic reforms (i.e. the 1990s) it is the informal economy that has grown fastest and absorbed most labour: in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, petty trade and services (Harriss-White 2000). Similarly in Africa there has been rapid growth in informal employment. It is estimated that well over half of the urban jobs in Africa and Asia are informal, while the figures for Latin America and the Caribbean could be around one quarter; it is also argued that the share of informal employment is higher for new jobs, with as many as 83 per cent of new jobs in Latin America and 93 per cent in Africa being informal (Charmes 1998). Women’s share of informal employment is typically higher than their share of formal employment.
The informal economy can best be understood as a heterogeneous construct that includes at one end of the spectrum, precarious forms of wage labour as well as self-employment in manufacturing, trade and services that offer low returns and poor long-term prospects (where the majority of people, especially women, are crowded), and at the other end, lucrative niches that provide an avenue for accumulation and growth. We will return to this issue in the following sections where we look at female employment in the era of globalization.

3. International Economic Integration and Female Employment

Women are certainly more likely to be working outside the home than ever before. Between the 1950s and the end of the 1990s, the proportion of women aged 20–59 who were in the labour force increased from around one-third to one-half. However, women’s participation in the labour force increased particularly in the 1980s and 1990s—the era of globalization.4 The current participation rates by region range from 14 per cent in North Africa to 76 per cent in East and Central Europe. In many cases, women’s participation has increased at the expense of men’s. In half the developing countries for which data were available, over the period 1975–95 the female participation rate rose while the male rate fell. The global labour force has become more female—rising from 36 per cent in 1960 to 40 per cent by 1997.

To some extent the increase in women’s labour force participation rates is a statistical artefact—it reflects better ways of recording seasonal, unpaid, and casual wage labour, although it should be acknowledged that much of women’s work still goes un-recorded (Charmes 1998). But it also reflects a number of real changes. More women must now work to ensure family survival—in the face of declining real wages and the increased monetary cost of subsistence resulting from cutbacks in public services and subsidies (Pearson 1999). But a further cause of the increase in women’s labour force participation is that there has been greater demand for women workers in particular sectors of the economy, particularly in export sectors that have in some countries experienced considerable growth. Much of this has been in low-skilled manufacturing—notably in garments, footwear and electronic products. It is not therefore surprising to find that women’s participation rates were intensified in countries where structural adjustment programmes were introduced (Cagatay 1995).
So there seems to be a degree of consensus in the literature that globalization has coincided with the intensification of women’s labour force participation in the non-agricultural sectors.5 But there are radically different interpretations—even within the gender literature itself—of what this greater presence in the labour force means for the women concerned (in terms of well-being, autonomy, skill acquisition, and so on). The ambivalent nature of women’s increased labour force participation has been well captured by the phrase “feminization of employment”, which refers not only to the increases in women’s overall share of employment but also to the simultaneous deterioration in the labour market conditions. Before we look at the social conditions of women’s employment in the era of globalization (in section 4), the rest of this section will draw attention to some of the important labour market trends.

3.1 Trade-Related Employment: Are Women Still the Preferred Labour Force?

By the mid 1990s a clear consensus had emerged which considered the growth in international trade to be, on the whole, favourable to women’s participation in the paid labour force (Joekes 1995). The increased absorption of women workers into the manufacturing sector in developing countries, it was argued, was being driven by changes in trade performance in two senses. “On the one hand, women have been the actively preferred labour force in exporting industries, and on the other, the change in trade orientation has entailed the relative decline of privileged male employment in autarkic industry” (ibid: ii).

To some analysts at least (Lim 1990) this was an exciting development: women (many of them young) were finally able to escape the confines of “inferior employment” in family-based farming, domestic service and the informal sector, in order to become paid factory workers (as men had traditionally been) in “modern”, export-oriented industries that were national growth poles. Others were more circumspect about the implications of these “new” forms of employment for women, and warned of the risks of double oppression (at home and in the factory) (Elson 1981). While this debate continues apace (Razavi 1999), a number of observations are important to bear in mind if a more nuanced analysis is to emerge.6
First, an analysis that dichotomises the industrial strategy and the gender of the workforce—export-oriented/female versus import substituting/male—has many defects, including the homogenisation of the female work force. Such an analysis will tend to overlook the diversity of positions and interests that divide women workers, thereby underestimating the extent to which some groups of women may be adversely affected when the industrial sector is re-structured and trade is liberalized (while others may indeed emerge as “winners”). In the case of China, for example, while it is clear that the new export-processing industries depend heavily on female workers, many of whom are young, rural migrants, this does not mean that the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were/are insignificant employers of women. The Chinese State Statistical Bureau figures for 1994 show that 39.3% of the workforce of SOEs and 50% of the workforce of urban collectives were women (Davin 2003). The numbers of women having lost jobs and welfare entitlements already, and those facing the risk of job loss in the near future as China further liberalizes its economy and restructures its SOEs are thus enormous.
Second, while many of the women involved in these export-oriented production processes are working under “modern” wage-based labour relations (earning a money wage, and so on), it is important to bear in mind that a significant number of workers are located in the less visible part of the so-called “global assembly line” (Sen 1999)—through sub-contracted piece rate work that takes place outside factory premises, in very small units as well as through home-based work. Dispersed across the urban and rural hinterland, it has been very difficult to reach any quantitative estimates of the numbers of workers thus engaged, but there are indications that this type of work may be on the rise in many parts of the world, and that the workforces involved are heavily feminized (Ghosh 2001). Indeed, some observers estimate that the percentage of home-workers in garments ranges from 30 to 60 percent in different Asian and Latin American countries (Chen, Sebstad, and O'Connell 1999). Hence the implicit dichotomy that is sometimes made between “modern” factory-based employment and “traditional” informal sector work seems highly dubious; a significant part of the female labour force engaged in export-oriented production processes works under labour relations and conditions that are characteristic of the informal economy (we will return to this point further below).
The third factor worth bearing in mind is the slow-down in the capacity of the export-oriented manufacturing industry in many countries to create employment in more recent years. I will not elaborate on this issue here, as it was already discussed in section 2. Suffice it to say that with a few notable exceptions—China, Malaysia and Chile—many of the even supposedly dynamic developing countries experienced only a low to moderate employment growth in manufacturing, and that for many other countries such employment actually declined in absolute numbers from 1985 to 1998.

A related trend is that those countries that have accelerated their manufactured exports, like Malaysia and Indonesia, have been facing what economists call “diminishing terms of trade” (Jomo 2003). There thus appears to have been a relative decline in the prices of manufactured exports from the South compared to manufactured imports into the South (especially from the North). These trends have been so worrying that observers warn that the “enhanced productivity and competitiveness in East Asia may well have contributed to a variant of “immiserizing growth”, i.e., of productivity gains that are less-than-proportionately reflected in rising real incomes or living standards” (Jomo 2003). In other words, southern manufacturing exports are exhibiting the same characteristics as the traditional agricultural commodities (deteriorating terms of trade with the North): developing countries need to push out more and more manufactured products in order to purchase the same basket of imports from the North, with adverse implications for the wages they can offer workers.

To obtain a better picture of what this can mean for the workers concerned a reference to Mauritius will be helpful. A recent UNRISD case study on Mauritius found that since the mid-1990s the Mauritian export-oriented industry (EOI)—which continues to specialise in labour-intensive and low-skill products and has not been able to up-grade itself to more skill-and capital-intensive production processes—has come under severe international price pressure. As a result, the EOI is no longer able to hire the indigenous female work force that it has relied upon over the past two decades. Rates of female unemployment have sky-rocketed, while the EOI increasingly resorts to importing “cheaper” migrant female labour from China and elsewhere to confront what is perceived as a growing lack of competitiveness (Bunwaree 2003).
The fourth important factor to take into account is the apparent defeminization of employment in some sub-sectors of export-oriented manufacturing, apparently as export production becomes more skill- and capital-intensive. In a recent issue of the United Nations Report, The 1999 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (UNDESA 1999), it was argued that since the late 1980s in many middle-income countries the demand for women’s labour in manufacturing has been weakening, as export production became more skill- and capital-intensive. As examples of this trend, the report cites Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and the maquiladoras in Mexico. In South Korea specifically, it notes that the composition of the workforce in the electronics industry has changed in favour of male workers, as production in this sector shifted to more sophisticated communication and computer products. This finding is confirmed by a detailed case study of female employment in South Korea [Hyoung, 2003 #552], which finds that since 1990 the absolute number of women employed in the manufacturing sector has gradually declined; the paper also finds that the female share of total manufacturing employment was 32.8 percent in 1970, 41.5 percent in 1990 and 35.6 percent in 1997. How can the process of de-feminization be explained? Is it because women with appropriate skills and education levels are not available?
While the facts of de-feminization are more or less conclusive, the mechanisms leading to it are far from clear. A number of different explanations have been offered. Jayati Ghosh (Ghosh 1999), for example, argues that the observed de-feminization of the manufacturing labour force in East Asia may be attributed to the narrowing of the gender wage gap in the region. The figures she cites show a gradual (and, one could say, rather marginal) rise in women’s wages compared to men’s wages. For example, in South Korea, the ratio of average female wages to male wages increased from 50 percent in 1990 to 56 percent in 1997, while in Malaysia it moved from 49 percent to 57 percent between 1990 and 1995. According to Ghosh, what this narrowing of the gender wage gap has meant is that “women became less cheap as labour in exporting industry”—a tendency that was reinforced by several legislative moves in the region towards protecting women workers’ rights and interests (such as more generous maternity benefits). In other words, as women workers have become less “cheap” and less “docile”—thanks to their struggles and to public policy responses to their demands—they may have lost their “comparative advantage” vis-à-vis men. But this hypothesis sits uneasily with the fact that Singapore—one of the countries where there has been significant de-feminization of employment—is also exceptional among the East Asian economies in being the only economy studied where the gender gap in manufacturing wages has actually widened in recent years (Jomo 2003).
Joekes (Joekes 1995) argues that the swing back from female intensity in Singapore’s manufacturing as it has pursued its goal of product up-grading, may be attributed, as a proximate cause, to the fact that women workers with the needed technical qualifications were not available in sufficient numbers for recruitment to new technical and other skilled grades. However, Jomo (Jomo 2003) notes in response, that it is not clear that this was necessarily a region-wide phenomenon since the facilities for pre-employment industrial vocational training in the rest of the region have been less well developed (though they are likely to be as gender-biased).
Given the fact that the precise mechanisms and relations are still poorly understood, it would be very difficult to reach any definitive conclusions about the causes and mechanisms behind de-feminization. What can be concluded with a sufficient degree of certainty (pace Jomo, 2003) is that there appears to have been in Asia at least a general regional pattern of increased female employment in manufacturing during the early period of rapid labour-intensive industrialization, probably accelerated by the availability of export markets. However, with full employment, more sophisticated or skill-intensive manufacturing and other related developments, both manufacturing growth and industrial employment growth appear to have tapered off, and the female share of such employment also appears to have declined, reflecting the gender preferences (or biases) of the new industrial employers, though the existing evidence does not allow a more careful and detailed examination of the processes at work. This is, however, clearly an area that requires far more empirical and analytical scrutiny.
I would like to end this section by drawing attention to an area of female employment in developing countries that has received relatively little attention in recent years, even within the gender literature, partly because it is not seen as “export-oriented” (and hence valuable according to the dominant neoliberal worldview), and partly because it is considered to be (and is) an area of traditional female work. This is female employment within the public service in general, and more specifically within the public welfare services, such as teaching and nursing. It is widely known that in the context of structural adjustment policies individuals and groups with fixed incomes—largely those in sectors that were highly import dependent, and those who worked in, and depended on, the public sector for wages and social protection—were disadvantaged. The contractionary effects of adjustment in low-income countries encouraged multiple survival strategies on a large scale: government employees and teachers became small-scale entrepreneurs, selling their services in the over-crowded informal economy. Meanwhile the private commercial services—in health and possibly in education—have grown and been increasingly legitimized. It is very difficult to find reliable sex-disaggregated statistics to show how women have fared in this process and whether or not the new, more commercialized education and health services are better employers of women in the developing countries. There are, however, some excellent micro level studies on this subject; Deniz Kandiyoti’s [Kandiyoti, 2002 #512] work on Uzbekistan shows how large numbers of highly educated female teachers and nurses have reverted to working in the agricultural sector and/or in the over-crowded informal economy. Moreover, what likely affects do the new conditions of female employment in teaching and nursing have on incentive structures for girls to complete secondary school and maybe even enter higher education? In the 1950s and 1960s the likelihood of finding a government job, with a descent wage and good welfare entitlements, for example, constituted a powerful set of incentives for young women to remain in secondary school. How have these incentive structures changed under the new policy dispensation which effectively de-legitimizes public service jobs while upholding the private, commercial sector as the way to go? I don’t think these questions have been adequately researched, but the policy implications are potentially profound.

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