Jobs define female power in the home

  • 14/08/1993

BASED on a study by a Dutch academic, this book attempts to analyse variations in female employment by examining a cross-section of different forms of production and estimating their impact on women's bargaining power within the household. It suffers, however, from a major weakness: It dwells at length on the kind of work that women do, but does not explain the nature of women's power within the household.

Baud focusses on the shoe industry (Guadalajara, Mexico), the shrimp industry (Bombay, Calcutta and Kerala) and the textile industry (Coimbatore) and does this through a comparison of India and Mexico, though the differences between the two countries are substantial. Comparisons of certain aspects of industrial policy, industry's contribution to national development and of employment trends, display a number of similarities.
Bargainging power The author asserts bargaining power implies clout in making decisions, but she studies such power only within the household. Women's ability to exercise power may be severely limited because other household members may not recognise such rights or the women themselves may not choose to exercise them.

Baud's conclusion is that the extent of women's participation in the production units is often greater than is acknowledged by owners of the units. The author also concludes women's personal and household backgrounds, forms of production and class formation explain the systematic differences existing in the recruitment of male and female labourers. Young, married women are limited to domestic work, while young, unmarried women have better access to different types of production units.

The book is heavily academic in content and outlook and contains little new in terms of gender and its relationship to industrialisation. But it is valuable to researchers interested in the lives of working women.

Anita Anand is director of the Women's Feature Service, New Delhi.