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household economic activities (Labour Force Survey 2000)8.

Bangladesh

2002/03

87.4

26.1

India

2001

78.4

37.7

Pakistan

2001/02

82.7

16.2

Sri Lanka

2004

74.8

34.7

Hong Kong

2004

71.7

51.9

Japan

2004

73.4

48.2

Korea

2004

75.0

49.9

Thailand

2004

81.8

65.1

Turkey

2004

72.3

25.4

Table 2. Labour participation rates of

selected countries (above 15 years, %)

Year

Male

Female

Source: Compiled from LABORSTA

Internet.

From the above figures, therefore, it can be stated that while a majority of women are at work, the number of women who have entered the labour market as wage labour is still limited. The main impediment to women’s participation in wage labour is considered to be a social norm called purdah (seclusion of women. The

term

literally

means

‘curtain’).

Although

the

actual

compliance

and

interpretations vary individual’s religion,

from class,

person to person, age, position in the

particularly family and

in relation to the living environment,

purdah is an integral part of society related to evaluation of status, arrangement of marriages, division

as a system and as a symbol and ownership and inheritance of of labour, and female sexuality

is deeply property, (Papanek

1973:290). As notions of female

an integral part of the value system, purdah and associated space, role and behaviour serve as powerful weapons to control

women’s choice of work. Thus women have been excluded, voluntarily, from public spheres, including the labour market.

whether

forcibly

or

8 The latest labour force survey of 2002/03 uses only the usual or conventional definition.

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