Female Labor Force Participation

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Updated: Apr 03, 2021
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Female Labor Force Participation essay

Economic inequality is a global phenomenon and unfortunately, it is rising despite many initiatives and policy formulations (Atkinson, A.B. 2015). Women persistently remain underrepresented in the global formal economy (The Global Gender Gap Report, 2017). However, what’s even more unfortunate is that women remain a common group among all categories when it comes to economic inequalities if we investigate through an intersectional analysis. For example, women from rural areas have been contributing in the production process since the pre-historic ages but they still have comparatively less access to the organized formal markets when we compare to women who are based in the cities. The increasing urbanization and post-industrialization age simply are not designed to integrate rural women in the production system. When we consider race and color or citizenship status, the difference of economic outcome among women is striking (Khan, 2016).

For example, in the USA for every USD earned by a man, White women earn 74 cents, African women earn 67 cents and Latinas earn the least, 54 cents (Bureau-of-Labor-Statistics, U. 2015). The same discrepancy of income and outcome goes for the able-bodied women in compare to physically challenged women. The already intricate patriarchal social structures pose more challenges for women who have learning difficulties or other physical shortcomings. However, according to the UNESCO (2016), regardless of class and race, ‘mMotherhood penalty’, results in 40 to 50 per cent pay gap among women.accounts for as much as 40 to 50 per cent of the gender gap in pay irrespective of class and race. Therefore, women remain a common group among all categories when it comes to economic inequalities. Female labor force participation is highest in some of the poorest and richest countries in the world. And it is lowest in countries with average national incomes somewhere in between. In other words: in a cross-section, Tthe connectionrelationship between the rate of female labor force participation rates withand GDP per capita shows follows a U-shape according to the (World Bankk, 2017). While the highest number of women in the labor market comes from both richest and poorest nations, it is lowest in countries with average national incomes (World Bank, 2017).

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Since the ancient time till present, women have worked in the production process especially in agriculture and continue to do so across the world. The nature of women’s work changed due to several world events ranging from the industrial revolution, world wars to the increasing urbanizations. The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries changed the nature of work in Europe and other countries of the Western world. Working for a wage , and eventually, a salary,is now a became part of modern urban life. Even though women started their formal labor market participation in industries and factories during the first world war, eventually they formed the workforce in other sectors such as sales, clerical and secretarial jobs as well. During the 19th century, an increasing number of women in Western countries took jobs in factories, such as textile mills, or on assembly lines for machinery or other goods. In the United States, World War I created opportunities for women in the workforce, amongst other economic and social influences. Due to the rise in demand for production from Europe during the raging war, more women found themselves working outside the home. In the first quarter of the century, women mostly occupied jobs in factory work or as domestic servants, but as the war came to an end they were able to move on to such jobs as salespersons in department stores as well as clerical, secretarial and other “lace-collar” jobs. However, as mentioned above, the wage remains low and sectors are gender segregated.

There are different debates around explaining the reason behind this disparity. In Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Marx & Engles, 1884), we see the historical root behind the reason of women’s secondary position in the modern society is Historically, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in their Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884) mentioned the Sexual Division of labour theory behind the reason of women’s secondary position in the modern society. They have argues highlighted that the division between public and private domain of work after the hunting-gathering society is one of the biggest reasons for women’s sufferings in today’s world. Marx, M., & Engles, F. (1884) argued that as the idea of private property and family emerged, men started to take control of the outside world whereas women started to engage and take responsibility of the private world such as family.

In a more modern note, the Nature vs Culture debate by Ortner, Sherry B. (1974) points out how women are perceived as inferior to men in ancient societies due to their assigned gender roles and responsibilities. This theory points out that women’s abilities to give birth was considered as an ‘awe’ like nature, as we say mother nature. In contrast, men’s capability for warfare is considered more influential to shape and dominate the culture. These ideologies of valuing culture moreover nature is another reason behind women’s secondary status in the societies despite their valuable contribution to families, communities and societies.

In almost every country in the world, men are more likely to participate in labor markets than women (Atik, H. & Khan, M. 2016; Dey, S. and Khan, M. 2011; Khan, M. 2016; Khan and Atik, 2019). The numbers for most countries are well below 100%, which means that the participation of women tends to be lower than that of men. Yet differences are outstanding: in countries such as Syria or Algeria, the ratio is below 25%. In contrast, in Laos, Mozambique, Rwanda, Malawi and Togo, the relationship is close to, or even slightly above 100% (i.e. there is gender parity in labor force participation or even a higher share of women participating in the labor market than men). However, these gender differences in participation rates have been narrowing substantially in recent decades (World Bank, 2017). At the same time, it needs to be identified that there are trends and patterns of the slowly but steadily increased engagement that might also have downsides for women, as discussed below.

Broadly and selectively there are four main problematic trends and challenges that could be identified which are the by-products of the increase in the economic participation of women. These are a) sexual division of labour; b) nimble figure theory c) glass wall and glass ceiling effect and d) female-headed households along with feminization of poverty.

Sexual division of labour implies the socially assigned roles and responsibilities on someone’s biological gender. For example, works that are unpaid and home-based including cooking, cleaning, washing, caring for family members and communities are usually perceived as women’s work. Whereas earning money or works that require greater physical strengths are still considered to be only men’s job. Unfortunately, this dichotomy still exists in the context of the labour market (Barron, R. D., & Norris, G. M. 1991; Beneria, L. 1979; Hakim, C. 1992). The sectors that require empathy, caring in nature, or sometimes based on physical appearance are considered to be women’s jobs. The higher concentration in nursing sector, elementary teaching, day care centers, administrative jobs, personal relationship (PR) and communications show us how the construction of gender is underpinned into the mainstream labour markets.

Nimble fingers theory claims that rural, young women and children are hired for their supposed docility, nimble fingers and attention to mind-numbing detail. In this globalized world, borders are increasingly blurred when it comes to the economic production process. Throughout the last half-century developing economies across South America, South and South-East Asia have opened their borders for foreign direct investments and have seen unprecedented growth. However, this growth is built on strategies that are exploitative to women workers (Pearson, R. 1998; Elson, D. 1996). Women are hired in the manufacturing sectors only in specific roles like sewing, cleaning, cutting, designing and other lower tier positions, whereas research and development, managerial positions all are held by the men. Hardly the female workers in factories reach the decision-making position within the industrial sectors. And this whole discourse is developed based on the deep-rooted patriarchal ideology that women possess nimble fingers, so they will take part only in these specific jobs that are usually low paid and require less educational requirement.

Glass wall and glass ceiling effect are two more feminist concepts to understand how the labour markets are biased towards women. Jobs based on gender segregation in the early career stage confine women into certain roles, especially in the professional service sectors. They are heavily concentrated into the communications, advocacy and administrative roles. Lack of experiences in diversified areas put women into a box, which is called a glass wall. Subsequently, due to the glass wall situation women experiences extra hindrances to reach to the top positions in the career ladder. This is called the glass ceiling effect (Arulampalam, W., Booth, A. L., & Bryan, M. L. 2007; Cotter, D. A., Hermsen, J. M., Ovadia, S., & Vanneman, R. 2001). This is a structural barrier. The challenges remain an unseen yet unbreakable barrier for minorities and women regardless of their higher educational attainment, qualifications or achievements. Glass wall and glass ceiling effect are particularly relevant for the corporate sectors. For example, of all Fortune 500 companies, only 4% CEO s are women (Global Gender Gap Report, 2015). It shows that not only rural or relatively less educated women but those who are privileged can also experience structural biases and discriminations concerning labour market participation.

Female-headed households and feminization of poverty are generally applicable to the developing country contexts. In most countries, women are not usually considered as heads of households unless no adult male is living permanently in the household. The assumption that the head of a household is always an adult man, even if a woman’s economic contribution to the household’s maintenance is the same or greater than that of a man, is a form of gender bias. In developing countries, there is a general trend of more and more women being the primary source of economic support for their families (Chant, S. 2006; Pearce, D. 1978). The rapid urbanization process fuelled by the manufacturing sector through industrialization is causing migration of male members to the cities in the hope of better income and jobs. Such internal migration can also be caused by climate change effects such as disasters, that displace communities and usually the male members move to cities or other villages leaving the women behind. Moreover, deaths, divorce and separation all these factors lead to the increase of female-headed households. However, markets are still not prepared to accept female-headed households as norms. When women are sole earners and decision makers they are often stigmatized. Particularly in rural areas, women are still discouraged to work in public domain and are less likely to be recruited, so this can only be imagined what kind of suffering women heads go through to manage livelihoods when there is no male partner at the households. Often, they are exposed to sexual harassment, violence and abuse at the workplace. These are some of the factors that often force women to compromise their labour market choices and take up work that is low-wage, with fewer benefits or better income prospect. Eventually leading to the increased number of women with less economic resources, which is then termed as the feminization of poverty.

The paradox of development here in the areas of economic empowerment is that different policies and programs often fail to address women’s strategic needs. Though women are being involved in greater numbers, a critical analysis through the theory of sexual division of labour and nimble fingers theory shows us how such engagements are pre-conditioned to be low wage, less secured often with no insurance or benefits and have lower prospects for leadership positions and higher incomes. Women’s access to the market, decision-making rights and wage parity remain as greatest challenges even though we have achieved a higher number of participants over the years. There are also unresolved questions of workplace-related violence and harassment, which is only recently unfolding through different social movements like ‘MeToo’. We must understand that for an inclusive economy women’s potential should be utilized not exploited. We have witnessed this exploitation of women’s labour through every wave of policies and events ranging from the industrial revolution, World Wars to Import Substitution Industrialization, structural adjustment policies and more recently the export-based growth model. Except for the Scandinavian countries, the disparity remains both in the developed and developing regions of the world.

The labour market situation in Turkey from a gender perspective is no exception to the challenges discussed above. Historically Turkish women have been contributing to rural agricultural and home-based production economy extensively, in addition to the care works to their immediate family members. However, their contribution to the production process is not reflected in the formal labour market statistics. In fact, women’s participation in the labour market has been decreased in comparison to the ’90s when female labour market participation was 34.5% (OECD, 2018). Turkey lags behind some Islamic countries as well as western countries in this regard. One of the reasons for this is the increased migration of rural women, who would otherwise have been employed in the agriculture sector. Compared to other Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, Turkey is the only one with a diminishing rate of women’s employment. A couple of ready statistical figures are extracted from multi-disciplinary sources and added below to have a bird’s eye view on women’s economic participation in Turkey.

Turkish women’s labour market participation is also the lowest of the 35 industrialised countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) where the average is 63%. A study by the consultancy firm McKinsey found that if women’s participation in the Turkish workforce increased to the OECD average, it could boost the country’s economic output by 20% by the year 2025.

Turkey ranks 131 of 144 in the gender gap index of the World Economic Forum, based on access to health services, educational attainment, economic participation and political empowerment in 2017. Turkey has the third largest difference between women and men, following Mexico and India in unpaid family works according to the same source. 89.6 percent of Turkish children are taken care of by their mothers, only 2 percent are in daycare centres (Ilkkaracan, I., Kim, K., & Kaya, T. 2015).

Women in Turkish society usually marry in a later age and have fewer children if they are educated to the university level, nonetheless, this does not apparently help increase the labour market outcome as the number of female paid workers are decreasing. The education level of women was directly proportionate to their labour force participation rate: 15.2 for illiterate women, 27.2 for those whose education level was under secondary school level, 33.6 for secondary school graduate, and 71.3 for university graduates. Only 16.7 women held executive positions in the service industry with 55.4 percent of women working in the sector. The number of female academicians in the higher education industry has been increased from 40.1 percent in 2007 to 43.1 percent in 2017. There is also an increasing number of women’s entrepreneurial activities, especially in small and medium scale enterprises (TUIK, 2017). Inadequate availability of childcare and the lack of flexible employment contracts have been described as the major reasons behind this down-spiral situation in labour market for women, in addition to the ongoing social transformation that is veering towards an Islamist regime (Ilkkaracan, I., & Selim, R. 2007; ?lkkaracan, ?. 2012).

Turkey is a signatory of the CEDAW (The Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women), the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies, the European Social Charter and the ILO Agreements (Ozkanli, O. 2001). In addition, the equality before law irrespective of one’s language, race, colour, sex, political ideas, philosophical beliefs, religion, sect or any such considerations is also ensured by the Constitution of The Republic of Turkey in the Article 10.

Comprehensive labour market reform initiatives undertaken by the government including but not limited to the following:

  • The National Employment Strategy
  • Other measures are smaller in scale and include a subsidy scheme to employers’ social security contributions to hiring women and youth.
  • 2003 legislation to support ‘Equal-pay-for-equal-work between genders’
  • The Directorate General on the Status of women: mid-level manager training on social gender equality
  • Turkey’s Industrial Strategy and Small and Medium Enterprise Strategy are also geared to support greater female employment
  • Training courses for young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-29.

For the young people who meet the required conditions, KOSGEB gives grant and interest-free loan following the completion of the courses. The support rate for women is higher than for men.

The gender gap in the labor market can be attributed in part to formal rules and informal practices that value male and female labour differently, regardless of the levels of ‘human capital’. Women’s empowerment requires challenging the patriarchal power relations that result in women having less control over material and intellectual resources to excel in the labor market. Labour markets need to acknowledge the contribution of unpaid domestic responsibilities and care work done by women, which have trillions of dollars of opportunity cost. The achievements and challenges have been identified from a broad perspective in the discussion above. Hopefully, the policy-makers and institutional authorities concerning the economic sector will take feminist analysis with greater acceptance and put in efforts according to their suggestion to lessen the discrepancy.

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Female Labor Force Participation. (2021, Apr 03). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/female-labor-force-participation/