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Women's Activity Outcomes, Preferences and Time Use in Western Sri Lanka

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This study addresses three important gaps in knowledge and research about women’s labour force participation in Sri Lanka. While previous research used national sample survey data to infer factors underlying women’s participation decisions through actual outcomes, this study aimed to ask these questions of women themselves. Using data from a sample of 500 married women in Western Sri Lanka, it investigates women’s perceptions about the activities they were engaged in, whether what they were currently doing was what they liked to do, and what other activities they might consider taking up and supporting conditions. The study also investigates perceptions of wives and husbands about gender roles and investigates the extent to which these perceptions were associated with the wives’ decision to participate. The division of paid and unpaid work between women and their husbands is also examined, and the extent to which time spent on unpaid work is associated with the probability of wives participating in the labour market investigated. Controlling for other factors, the study finds that perceptions of gender roles and times spent on household chores and care work are statistically significant predictors of whether wives engage in market work. Policy implications are drawn while the study also draws attention to the need to adapt household bargaining models to analyze the relationship between marriage and the labour market in developing countries. The study argues that where the working environment is hostile to women's paid work as in developing countries, the institution of marriage may be the only source economic sustenance, social protection and social capital.
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