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increasing number of educated women from the upper and the upper-middle classes have begun to participate in non- traditional employment, for instance, as officials and professionals both in the government and private sector, in competition with male counterparts. Their social status has in fact improved,

since those occupations are perceived of poor women, on the other hand,

as is

socially prestigious.

The social

degraded

by

the

very

fact

of

status taking

employment outside the home, despite their labour and income (Khan 1992: 178-199).

contributions to the home in This is mainly due to the

terms of fact that

jobs available for poorer woman are accorded low social prestige. woman of the lower strata of the society, a choice between ‘pay

has to be made.

The fact that of all classes middle class women

Therefore, for or purdah’ still have the lowest

economic participation rate indicates that they are placed in the

choosing between economic gain and female labour market, there is a strong

loss

in

social

status10.

In

co-relation between types of

dilemma of short, in the employment

and

class,

social

prestige,

and

social

acceptance

of

working

women.

Now let us examine the structure of the labour market on the basis of statistical data. It has been reported that the shift in the conventional division of labour has been accelerating since the early 1970s (Feldman and McCarthy 1983: 955; Hossain, Jahan and Sobhan 1990: 26). The economic crisis that followed the

10 There is no statistical evidence to corroborate the different rate of female participation in wage employment according to class, but some surveys find the least participation among women of middle-class households (for example, Khan 1992). White also mentions that in the village she studied, it was middle-class women that most strictly observe Purdah (White 1992: 22). In rural areas, employment options available for women are polarised between jobs with higher prestige, such as services in government and non-government field works, and jobs with low recognition, such as domestic servants and rural construction work. In urban areas where there are so-called middle-status jobs like secretary, typist and nurse, however, there are strong reservations on the part of both family members and the women themselves to take such jobs. See Alam 1975; Banu 1988.

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