Women and the subsistence sector. Economic participation and household decision making in Nepal.

Acharya M; Bennett L
Washington, D.C., World Bank, 1983 Jan. 140 p. (World Bank Staff Working Papers No. 526)

The relationship between women's economic participation and their input into household decision making was investigated in 7 village studies in Nepal. 2 distinct cultural traditions were represented in the sample: Indo-Aryan/Hindu and Tibeto-Burman/Buddhist-Animist. The village economy is conceptualized in 4 concentric spheres: 1) household domestic work, 2) household agricultural production activity, 3) work in the local market economy, and 4) employment in the wider economy beyond the village. Aggregate data revealed that women are responsible for 86%, 57%, 38%, and 25% of the input into these 4 spheres, respectively. It was hypothesized that women's participation in the market economy increases their status (defined in terms of household decision making), while confinement to nonmarket subsistence production and domestic work reduces women's status. This hypothesis was confirmed. Women in the more orthodox Hindu communities, who are largely confined to domestic and subsistence production, were found to play a less significant role in major household economic decisions than women in Tibeto-Burman communities where women participate more actively in the market sector. Money earned in the market sector allows women to make a measurable contribution to household income, and thus appears to enhance the perception of women as equal partners. In addition, women's decision making input was found to be inversely related to the income status of the household. These results indicate that integrating women into the market economy is not only an efficient use of local resources, but also improves women's status and economic security. The time allocation and decision making data reveal that women play the major role in agricultural production, both as laborers and managers. This suggests the need to train female agricultural extension agents and to make male workers aware of the need to reach female farmers. The results further indicate that involvement of women in the development process leads to lowered fertility and more positive attitudes toward educating female children. Tibeto-Burman women have lower birthrates than Hindu women, perhaps due to their greater economic security and availability of alternate female role models. An extensive methodological annex, including survey instruments, is included.

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