Exploring Women's Labour Market Participation in Rural Bangladesh and India Using Mixed-Methods: Social Attitudes, Social Norms and Lived Experiences

  • Heather Piggott

Student thesis: Phd


Over the past 30 years, both Bangladesh and India have experienced interesting labour market patterns. The number of women formally partaking in labour has unexpectedly and persistently changed. Due to this, a sizeable literature has emerged- particularly as a number of unanswered puzzles remain. Rural Bangladeshi women have significantly improved their formal labour market participation since 2005, this has occurred simultaneously with an acceleration of economic growth. In contrast to this, in India there has been a persistent decline in rural womens labour market participation since 2002, this has occurred alongside a period of steady and persistent economic growth. Despite these unusual and contrasting trends, the labour market participation of women in both countries remains amongst the lowest in the world. Within geography and beyond, knowledge of what has caused these unusual labour market processes remain poorly understood. In this thesis I investigate the everyday geographies and practices through which these rural labour markets operate by taking a multi-scalar approach that considers social attitudes, social norms and lived experiences of womens labour at the macro, local and household level. I argue that in taking a mixed method, intersectional, gender and development approach that considers more intricate and intimate aspects of womens labour markets, I advance debates and understandings of labour market participation in these rural regions. I identify that social attitudes and social norms towards womens labour are not fixed, instead individuals negotiate, stretch and bend these norms in various ways depending upon both their personal circumstances and interpretations of socially normative practices. Furthermore, I identify a notion that things have changed with gendered norms of labour appearing far less fixed, less patriarchal and less traditional than previous literature has suggested. Prior to this study, investigations of this social phenomenon have largely focused upon statistical interpretations of these labour markets. In contrast, this thesis uses new comparative secondary survey and interview data from an international project in which I was a team member. I take a mixed methods comparative approach to exploring womens lived experiences of the labour market in rural regions of Bangladesh and India. Specifically, I unpack social attitudes towards womens labour using data from 444 surveys and 40 interviews in Bangladesh and 477 surveys and 45 interviews in India.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWendy Kay Olsen (Supervisor), Kunal Sen (Supervisor) & Sarah Marie Hall (Supervisor)

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