The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 235–251 | Cite as

The Contested Relationship Between Paid Work and Women’s Empowerment: Empirical Analysis from Bangladesh

Original Article


The debate about the empowerment potential of women’s access to labour market opportunities is a long-standing one but it has taken on fresh lease of life with the increased feminization of paid work in the context of economic liberalization. Contradictory viewpoints reflect differences in how empowerment itself is understood as well as variations in the cultural meanings and social acceptability of different kinds of paid work. Research on this issue in the Bangladesh context has not been able to address these questions because it tends to use very restricted definitions of work and narrow conceptualizations of empowerment. This paper uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative data from Bangladesh to explore this debate, distinguishing between different categories of work and using measures of women’s empowerment which have been explicitly designed to capture the specificities of local patriarchal constraints.


gender South Asia intra-household relations paid work economic empowerment 

Le débat sur le potentiel d’autonomisation de l’accès des femmes aux opportunités du marché du travail est ancien, mais il connaît un regain de vie grâce à la féminisation croissante du travail rémunéré dans le contexte de la libéralisation économique et grâce à l’intérêt croissant de la communauté de l’aide au développement international. Les points de vue contradictoires reflètent des différences dans la façon dont l’autonomisation elle-même est comprise ainsi que des variations dans les significations culturelles et l’acceptabilité sociale des différents types de travail rémunéré. La recherche sur cette question dans le contexte du Bangladesh n’a pas permis de régler ces questions, car les définitions du travail ont tendance à être très restrictives et les concepts de l’autonomisation, très étriqués. Cet article utilise une combinaison de données quantitatives et qualitatives du Bangladesh pour explorer ce débat en distinguant différentes catégories de travail et en utilisant des indicateurs d’autonomisation des femmes qui ont été explicitement conçus pour saisir les spécificités des contraintes patriarcales locales.


Supplementary material

41287_2017_119_MOESM1_ESM.doc (312 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 312 kb)


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK
  2. 2.BRAC Institute of Governance and DevelopmentDhakaBangladesh
  3. 3.BRAC Research and Evaluation DivisionBRAC CentreDhakaBangladesh

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