Women’s increasing entry into paid work has not been accompanied by a corresponding change in the gender division of unpaid labour in the household and community. Though women increasingly participate in the labour market, the expectation is that they will also take responsibility for the household. To what degree does women’s waged work in the garment industry transform gender norms and dynamics in their home lives? To what extent do the choices they make at the household level translate to their empowerment? This paper examines these questions by looking at data collected on gender dynamics at work and at home in the clothing industries of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kenya, Lesotho and Vietnam. While the extent to which women’s empowerment through employment in the garment sector remains fundamentally circumscribed by low wages, financial insecurity, and gendered expectations, the paper finds that Better Work has expanded the space in which women are able exert agency over their earnings within the context of household resource allocation, and has decreased the negative effects of ongoing and systemic financial precarity.
Discussion Paper 35: Better Work Beyond the Workplace
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