The contested relationship between paid work and women’s empowerment: Empirical analysis from Bangladesh
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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.