New Barriers and Continuing Constraints
Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette
Chapter 3: Ethnic Differences in Women’s Economic Activity: A Focus on Pakistani and Bangladeshi Women
Angela Dale and Sameera Ahmed INTRODUCTION The twentieth century saw dramatic rises in women’s levels of labour market participation in the UK whilst those for men fell slightly. Official UK statistics (ONS 2008) showed that 79 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women of working age were in employment – although almost a half of employed women work part-time. Marriage and partnership no longer pose a barrier to women’s employment and, whilst motherhood reduces women’s levels of employment, this effect is much less for more highly educated women than for those less well qualified (Dex and Joshi 1996; Dex et al. 1998). These increased rates of employment and qualifications have led to arguments that women now expect to live an ‘individualised’ life, free to make their own choices (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 2001; EspingAndersen 2002), with marriage no longer a social or economic necessity, and childbearing a matter of individual choice dissociated from marriage. In this chapter we explore the extent to which generalisations for women’s employment for the UK as a whole are sustainable for different ethnic groups and, in particular, we focus on the very different employment patterns for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women. Headline figures1 show that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are much less likely to be working than white women and that family formation has a strong negative impact on their economic activity. By contrast, Black Caribbean women are more likely to maintain economic activity during family formation. However, there are also very major differences in...
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