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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 30-31, July 22 & July 29 2023

Workforce Participation and Empowerment - A Case Study of Working Women in Kashmir | Yasmin & Nabi

Saturday 22 July 2023


by Effat Yasmin & Sumair Nabi


 Based on primary data this paper attempts to study the factors that determine workforce participation and level of empowerment among women. The data has been collected through a field survey from three districts viz. Anantnag, Srinagar and Baramulla of Kashmir Valley. Working women in the education, health, and banking sectors constitute the sample of the present study. The findings reveal that given a chance to exercise one’s job preferences, employment can be an important factor in the promotion of women’s empowerment.

Keywords: Empowerment, Workforce participation, Job preferences, Henry Garret Ranking.


The term "Empowerment" is a buzzword in development literature and suggestive of a craving for a flat world where no section of the population suffers exclusion or discrimination. After the withdrawal of colonial powers from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the native society experienced a sort of transformation. The different waves of democratization in different parts of the globe gave rise to demands by marginal groups for a more participatory role in the development process. Modern education and urbanization pushed it forward and unleashed new forces aiming at change in relationships between different population categories. The women had to fight for space in all parts of the world. The states and societies in many places acted as obstructions in women’s visibility if not empowerment. The role of religious elites also proved an obstruction, and the top-down development model allowed very little to percolate down to the marginal sections of the population. In more recent times, women in different parts of the world started challenging the patriarchy and all other oppressive structures of domination and legitimately asking for a share in the cake. The discussion on concepts like gender mainstreaming, gender gap, gender budgeting, gender development, etc. got impetus in academic circles and debates at national and international forums by different agencies like NGOs, pressure groups, civil society actors, and women organizations so that a gender equality perspective is incorporated in all policies at all levels and at all stages by the actors normally involved in policy-making.

1.1: Conceptual Framework: The focus of women’s empowerment gained its first momentum in the mid-1970s with the adoption of resolution 31/136 of the United Nations Decade for Women (United Nations, 1976). The resolution called upon governments to ensure equal and effective Participation of women in political, economic, social, and cultural life. Its adoption paved way for other resolutions and international declarations, including the United Nations (UN) Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA). In 2000, the United Nations Millennium Declaration set the basis for incorporating women’s empowerment in the global development agenda. The World Bank (2002), defines empowerment as the "expansion of the assets and capabilities [of individuals] participate in, negotiate with, influence, control and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives." Kabeer’s (2001) popular definition adds a layer of complexity to the simple component of control and states that empowerment is "the expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where the ability was previously denied to them." According to Malhotra. et. al., (2002), Kabeer’s conceptualization of empowerment is particularly relevant because it contains both the element of process and the elements of human agency and choice, with empowerment implying "choices made from the vantage point of real alternatives" and without "punishingly high costs." Basu and Koolwal, (2005) add that choice must extend to the ability to choose not to do something without fearing the consequences. There is a heavy reliance in the empowerment literature on the concept of choice and agency. Alsop and Heinsohn’s (2005) presentation of empowerment utilizes these essential concepts and broadens the definition of empowerment to agency and the opportunities that are available to women. They define empowerment as "a person’s capacity to make effective choices; that is, as the capacity to transform choices into desired actions and outcomes." They go on to say that "the extent or degree to which a person is empowered is influenced by the personal agency (the capacity to make a purposive choice) and opportunity structure (the institutional context in which choice is made)." The agency is indicated by asset endowments (psychological, informational, organizational, material, social, financial or human), while opportunity structure includes things like the presence and operation of formal and informal institutions, including the laws, regulatory frameworks, and norms governing behaviour. The existence of choice measures degrees of empowerment, the use of choice, and the achievement of choice. Several researchers have also expanded the concept of empowerment as a process to incorporate empowerment as a condition or outcome. In other words, empowerment is not just a process, but it is the state of being that results from the empowerment process. Dixon-Mueller’s, (1998) description of empowerment nicely sums up this viewpoint: "Empowerment is both a group and an individual attribute; both a process (that of gaining power) and a condition (that of being empowered)." It is also argued that empowerment is a state of being by discussing it in terms of consciousness: "The essence of empowerment is the development of individual and group consciousness of the opportunity and ability to act: consciousness of the existence and sources of injustice; consciousness of an entitlement to fair and equal treatment and to the conditions necessary for survival, security, or social advancement; consciousness of a capacity to confront, challenge and overcome social injustice wherever it occurs." In this sense, empowerment is the process by which an individual or group overcomes their own ideas and the external barriers that oppress them, and also the outcome of this process of being empowered.

1.2: Linkage between Employment and Empowerment: The twentieth century has seen fast labour market structure changes in developing and developed countries. Women have been expanding their contribution in perceived paid work, and this pattern has increased remarkably (Sebastian, 2008). Although women’s paid labour force participation rates are low in many developing countries, they are economically very active. Women work in household activities or on their own family farm or enterprise, contributing significantly to their family income. Several factors may explain why fewer women work away from home for pay, such as a low capital-to-labour ratio that makes production more intensive in physical than in mental tasks (favouring men’s comparative advantage) or a social stigma against women working outside the home (Goldin,1990). Technological change may create jobs that require and reward greater human capital, favor women’s comparative advantage, and do not carry as much of a stigma for women. In this spirit (Goldin,1994) describes a U-shaped pattern in women’s labour force participation. At low levels of economic development, women have high employment rates, primarily in agriculture or self-employment. As incomes rise, women leave the labour market partly because they do not want to work outside the home as manual labourers. But with greater development and increases in women’s human capital, white-collar opportunities have become available and draw women back into the labour force (Schultz, 1990; Costa, 2000; Mammen & Paxson, 2000).

Overviewing the scenario in India, as per Census (2011), the total number of female workers in India is 149.8 million and female workers in rural and urban areas is 121.8 and 28.0 million, respectively. Out of total 149.8 million female workers, 35.9 million females are working as cultivators and another 61.5 million are agricultural labourers. Among the remaining female workers, 8.5 million are involved in household activities and  43.7 million are classified as other workers. India has one of the lowest female labour force participation (FLFP) rates among emerging markets and developing countries. At around 27 per cent at the national level in 2015-16, India’s FLFP rate is well below the global average of around 50 per cent and East Asia average of around 63 per cent (Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, 2015). Out of 1.26 billion persons in 2015-2016 in India, only 125 million of the roughly 380 million working-age Indian females are seeking or currently employed (Population Reference Bureau, 2015). The overall trend of female labor force participation has been declining in contrast to most other regions, particularly since 2004-2005. India’s labor force participation rate for women fell from 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 27 per cent in 2015-16. In 2015-2016, women comprised 24.8 per cent of all rural workers, down from 31.8 per cent and 14.7 per cent of all urban workers, which is a small increase from 13.4 per cent in 1972- 73. Additionally, 13.4 per cent of Indian working women have a regular salaried job compared to 21.2 per cent of working men (aged 15—59). Indian women labor earns 56 per cent of what their male colleagues earn for performing the same work (The World Bank, 2015). The COVID-19 crisis cost women around the world $800 billion in lost income in 2020, equivalent to more than the combined GDP of 98 countries. Globally, women lost more than 64 million jobs in 2020. The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is having a harsher impact on women, who are disproportionately represented in sectors offering low wages, few benefits and least secure jobs. Further, the explosion of care work across the globe, as children and adults were confined to home, led to women dropping out of the workforce or reducing their work hours. United Nations estimated an economic impact of a fall in output by 1.8% in the Asia Pacific region in 2020 (Pretha et al., 2023).

The economic shock of the COVID-19 Pandemic also disproportionately impacted women in India. The State of Working India 2021 report also states that 90 per cent of men employed in late 2019 were employed in late 2020 as well, whereas the corresponding figure for women was only 50 per cent. Correspondingly, in case of Jammu and Kashmir, the scenario of women’s work participation is also not very alluring. In rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir, FLP rate has declined from 98 (per 1000 person) in 1993-94 to 49 (per 1000 persons) in 1999-2000. The 68th NSS survey (2011-12) shows the FLFP rate stagnated at 50 per 1000 persons. In urban areas too, it had declined from 96 per 1000 persons in 1993-94 to 48, but bounced back to 108 through 2011-12. It has been generally put forth that economic growth and education increase female workforce participation. The economic and demographic factors that impact female labour force participation are basic education, age, marital status, family set up, presence of educated and employed parents, and household income. Women aged 15-24 years and having children in the age group of 0-2 years have less work participation in economic activities (Faridi et al., 2009). But in case of Jammu and Kashmir, the scenario is even more critical. There is about 24.6 per cent population belonging to the age group of 18-29 years which is unemployed, which is far more than All India’s Unemployment Rate of 13.2 per cent in which women constitute the majority of the segment (Greater Kashmir, 2018). These figures reveal that Jammu and Kashmir is among the least developed states of India in terms of female labour force participation rate, irrespective of the fact that women constitute about 47 percent of the population in the state. This low Participation not only impacts their social and economic status in society but also prevents them from taking active roles in household management.

Coupled with this decreasing rate of women’s workforce participation, the concerns for the decreasing role of women in decision-making or lack of women empowerment has increased. Over the past two decades, discourse about and attention to women’s empowerment has steadily increased within the international human development literature. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is necessary for improving women’s and men’s well-being, social justice, and achievement of development goals. Women’s empowerment is typically discussed in relation to political, social and economic empowerment. Still, the economic empowerment of women has received particular attention. It is often cited as one of the most important ways to promote gender equality, reduce poverty and improve the well-being of women, children, and societies. Economic empowerment includes women’s Participation in economic activities and women’s role in decision-making and power sharing. Employment, specifically paid employment, is seen as the fundamental component of economic empowerment. The assumption that there is a link between employment and women’s empowerment, both in terms of economics and gender relations, is widely accepted and supported by NGOs, international organizations like UNDP and by academics and development workers around the globe. Women’s empowerment is deemed particularly important from the social justice and equality perspectives as well as a necessary means to achieve economic development goals, such as poverty reduction increase in the level of nutrition, healthcare, and improved educational facility in developing countries (Quisumbing & Kumar, 2011). Despite the widespread support for the assumption that employment leads to women’s empowerment, there is very little research that empirically tests this relationship and there is still a lot that we do not know about the link between employment and empowerment. In present research, an attempt has been made to empirically test the assumption by looking into the connections between various aspects of work and indicators of women’s empowerment. The basic research question is to examine employment’s implications for women’s empowerment.

In the received literature, we witnessed some contradictions in findings with regard to even the simplest question: does being employed empower women? Some studies suggest that "paid employment has the potential to alter deeply embedded cultural norms" (Dutta, 2000); other studies find that being employed does not matter much without considering the conditions of employment. Other studies conducted on Bengali women in India and on poor women in Bangladesh report that paid work is empowering women and that women who work are more likely to have decision-making power in the home, control on resources, have greater mobility and are better able to accumulate assets and secure their own well-being (Dutta, 2000; Salway et al.,2005). However, even when there are positive impacts on empowerment and market activity that affects women’s ability to influence resource allocation and domestic decision-making (Acharya and Bennett, 1983), drastic changes in women’s empowerment due to employment are limited. In the case of Bengali women in India, husbands still maintain the final say in major domestic decisions (Dutta, 2002), and in Bangladesh, despite improvements in women’s empowerment from working, several structural barriers limit the extent of the effects of employment on empowerment (Salway et al.,2005). Hence, it is argued that being employed is probably not enough to ensure women’s empowerment because working does not necessarily allow women to challenge the power structures that prevent their agency and full Participation in society (Kabeer,1997; Kantor,2003; Sen,1999; Pearson,2004). Empowerment is also impeded because women’s employment is often survival-driven and does not affect changes in gender relations. Women’s low earnings do not offer them entitlements to social protection and employment does not relieve the burden of domestic labor, it does not increase political Participation and it does not lead to equal property rights (Pearson, 2004; Baruah,2005). Despite these barriers, employment, under the right conditions, can be an important factor in the promotion of women’s empowerment.

1.3: Female Workforce Participation in Jammu and Kashmir

The women of Jammu and Kashmir have been much more unfortunate than their counterparts elsewhere because of many issues. Women’s economic Participation has declined despite rising female literacy rates and positive GDP growth rates (Yasmin and Khan, 2013). The latest Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS,2022) has revealed that the percentage of working women in Jammu and Kashmir has increased a little in the last three years, particularly post-pandemic. Compared to 26.5 percent in 2018-19, the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of females of all age groups in Jammu and Kashmir increased to 32.8 percent in 2021. Currently, the male LFPR in Jammu and Kashmir is 55.8 percent which is still higher than females. The report also shows that rural women in Jammu and Kashmir contributed more to the LFPR than their urban counterparts. In rural Jammu and Kashmir, the LFPR of females is 35.3 percent compared to 22.3 percent in urban areas. Women of Kashmir must develop awareness about their powers/ rights and the system they embrace, such as social taboos, conventional beliefs, discrimination, surviving in male-dominated societies, etc. Besides this, the importance of women’s economic independence for overall dignity and even survival is also very crucial, which can be brought out by the fact that there is a linkage between the physical survival of women and their entry into the workforce.
But women, usually in developing countries, face various types of helplessness in both economic and societal spheres of life, leading to what we call ’Disempowerment’. This term for women is subsequently attributed to various challenges like attaining education, earning incomes, the bargaining power to market their labour and products, contributing to decision taking etc. As we descend through the literature, there are many such challenges to women’s empowerment in Jammu and Kashmir as well. Violence against women, lack of decision-making authority, lack of Participation in political affairs, lack of education, and lack of awareness about legal rights are the challenges that hinder the women of Kashmir  from progressing (Suri,2013). Though Jammu and Kashmir’s government has been making proactive interventions to encourage women’s Participation in governance, business, and other sectors, women still lag behind their male counterparts in terms of employment and educational opportunities.

1.4. Scope of The Study: The MDGs and SDGs take gender equality and gender equity as major challenges and set deadlines to achieve gender justice by 2030 (SDGs Report 2019). The unequal distribution of power and resources among men and women is evident from the latest figures of the gender gap index constructed by the World Economic Forum 2022. At the same time a greater need for integration of women into development is also emphasized. The need, therefore, would be to raise the status of women to enable them to participate effectively and improve their decision-making power, both at home and outside. The presumed importance of women’s Participation in the workforce is mainly due to their ability to bridge the supply gap in employment, especially in a growing economy and narrow the gender gap. Increasing female employment during development also means adding to women’s existing work burden and long working hours, much of which is unpaid. In a country like India, the term "work" rather than "labour", in the case of working women’s activities seems to be appropriate in understanding the invisible work burden of women. Both the productive and reproductive work of women is directly or indirectly related to the country’s development through developing the economy and society (Lahoti and Swaminathan, 2016). In this context, it can be argued to recognize the term ’work’ not only labour, so that various kinds of unpaid work that women cannot escape from, are also accounted for. Women have never been a privileged lot, especially in the developing and underdeveloped world (Klasen, 2002; Daniellson et al., 2008). They have not been treated at par with men in various aspects of living - from education to Participation in decision-making at home or outside. This naturally limits their opportunities to serve as positive agents of change as familial and societal roles and pressures bound them. The incorporation of women into the workforce represents a challenge for attaining and fulfilling the goals of contemporary welfare states not only from a quantitative but also a qualitative point of view. Given the importance of women’s work participation and empowerment in contributing to and promoting overall development, there is ample scope to examine various dimensions of the issue in every region of the country. Against this backdrop, an attempt has been made to study the relationship between employment and women’s empowerment in Kashmir Valley. The specific objectives are given below.

1.7 Objectives:   

  • To delineate the factors impacting job preference among different categories of women in Kashmir and
  • To Study the linkage between women’s employment and empowerment.


The present study is based mainly on primary data. The data has been collected from three main districts of Kashmir Valley. It has a total of 10 districts. A purposive sampling technique has been used. To begin with, districts Anantnag, Baramulla, and Srinagar have been selected to give due representation to all regions i.e. North, South, and Central Kashmir. The rationale for selecting these districts lies in the fact that compared to other districts of the valley, these three districts have a high population, high literacy rates, and a higher working women population (Census 2011).

2.1 Sampling Technique:

The Cochran formula has been used to calculate an ideal sample size, given a desired level of precision, confidence level, and the estimated proportion of the attribute present in the population. Cochran’s formula is considered especially appropriate in situations with large populations. The Cochran formula is


  • e is the desired level of precision (i.e., the margin of error),
  • p is the (estimated) proportion of the population which has the attribute in question,
  • q is 1 — p.
    So, p = 0.5 at 95% confidence and at least 5 per cent plus or minus precision. A 95 % confidence level gives us Z values of 1.96, per the normal tables, so we get (1.96)2 (0.5) (0.5) / (0.05)2 = 385. So, the required sample for the study is 385 working women.

2.2: Description Of Sampling:

A multi-stage stratified random sampling technique was used to select the respondents. In the first phase, the number of tehsils were listed and two tehsils, one rural and one urban/semi-urban, were selected from each district. Accordingly, Anantnag and Qazigund were selected from district Anantnag; Central Srinagar and South Srinagar from district Srinagar; Baramulla and Sopore were selected from district Baramulla keeping in view the stratifications based on the presence of educational, health, and financial institutions and rural-urban population in each tehsil. In the second stage, from each selected tehsil, the number of intuitions from three sectors viz, education, financial, and health sector were listed. These three sectors were explicitly chosen because women’s work participation is greater in these three sectors compared to other sectors like administration, law and security, tourism, information technology etc. The selection of institutions was made in the following pattern. Universities, Colleges, Higher Secondary, and Middle Schools from Educational Sector. Banks are either public/private/regional rural banks from Financial Sectors and Government District Hospitals, Sub District Hospitals, Private Hospitals, and Primary Health Care Centers from Health Sector. At the third stage, the list of working women from every sector was obtained from official records of concerned institutions and divided in groups on the basis of their position in the institution. Since the required sample size for the present study was 385, however, to keep a margin for the probability of non-response, the sample size was increased and at the final stage, a sample of 130 working women respondents was selected from each district. Accordingly, 70 respondents were selected from education, 30 from financial, and 30 from the healthcare sector giving due representation to all selected institutions within the sector. Hence, the final sample of the study was (70+30+30=130x3=390). However, due to incomplete information or partially filled information and non-response only 379 questionnaires could be used for data analysis. In order to identify the most important factor influencing the respondent while choosing a job, Henry Garret Ranking Technique method was applied.

Henry Garret Ranking Method:

To identify the factors impacting job preference of women, different parameters based upon the respondent’s preference while choosing a job were identified. The ranks were assigned from 1-7 (1: most preferred and 7:
least preferred). According to this method, the participant was asked to specify the rank for all factors, and the results of such ranking were converted into score value with the help of the following formula: According to Henry Garret’s (1969) ranking method, The percentage score is computed as Percentage Score = 100 (Rij-0.5)/ Nj

Where, Rij= Rank, ith item, jth individual and Nj = number of items Ranked by jth individual. The chi-square test was also carried out which helped to identify the association between the different variables.  

1.5. Factors Impacting Job Preference Among Different Categories of Women In Kashmir

Various factors determine the differences in job preference and job satisfaction among different categories of working women in Kashmir. Women’s personal characteristics and preferences influence their decision to work or not. Their preferences with respect to making productive use of their knowledge, enhancing skills, job satisfaction, and many other factors like modernization, socio-cultural changes, empowerment, gender roles, aptitude towards economic independence etc. have been discussed in this section The advocates of gender justice argue that many times, woman work participation decisions are influenced by societal institutions, beliefs, and roles which guide the traditional gender behavior, conditioned by the communities and countries which they belong to. Social institutions dealing with formal and informal laws, norms of the society, and different cultural practices shape their decision, choices, and behaviors which in turn influence work participation (Jhonson and Drechsler, 2008). Sometimes the perceived social barriers discourage women from working outside the home. Job preference made by women themselves is considered an important determinant of the female labor force participation rate globally. Given the natural difference, women have a set of preferences and can’t opt for any or every job.

Another important variable is income. It has been found that women’s work participation rate is high among both high- and low-income families (Cagatay and Ozler, 1995). Family income has nothing to do with the choice of women to enter the labor market. The income-earning desire of women is actually a struggle for empowerment. In addition to this, the relationship between women’s education and work participation is not straightforward. Women’s education is perceived to be shaped by their relation to domesticity (Kodoth and Eapen, 2005). Higher education is given to a girl in the interest of family welfare rather than for getting a job. In developing countries, women’s education is tied to their marriageability/domesticity/and capacity building for employment. Education is also believed to help her maintain her household responsibilities efficiently. Thus, in India, compared to the large number of working women who have little formal education, educated women have relatively lower Participation in the workforce. For a woman, whether to join the workforce or not is mostly decided by the family; not by her own choice; non-availability of jobs according to the qualification and safety at the workplace can be a reason for many women to stay out of the workforce. As a patriarchal nature of Indian society, it has forced women to join mainly activities like household maintenance, care for sick and elderly person, taking care of the children etc. Thus, many are not interested in working outside the home and are satisfied in performing their daily household duties, considered core activities. While, many women also feel, that having an independent source of income, and working outside will increase their self-esteem and authority to take part in decision-making at the household level.

It has been found from the literature that given the opportunity women have, the potential to work across different sectors in different countries. But our study has been limited to only three main sectors; Education, Health, and Finance. Among rural and urban areas, women are found to engage mostly in government and private services, whereas, self-employment or other challenging jobs show a declining trend. The concentration of women workers is found to be high in the education sector among all the three categories. In addition to that, an attempt has also been made to ascertain the influence and magnitude of various demographic, cultural, and other factors which impact the job preference of both rural and urban women in Kashmir. To spot the most important factor influencing the respondent while opting for a job, Henry Garret Ranking Technique has been used. In this method, respondents have been asked to assign rank on the basis of a standard structured questionnaire. They were asked to rank the preferences from 1-7 (1=Most preferred, 7= least preferred). The most important reason motivating work participation according to the individual respondent is to be ranked highest and the least important or the irrelevant one be ranked lowest. The outcome of such ranking has been converted into score value with the help of the following formula:

Where Rij is the Rank given for the ith variable by jth respondents and Nj is the number of variables ranked by jth respondents. Table 3 shows the calculation of percentage position and with the help of Garrett’s Ranking, the percentage position as calculated is converted into scores. Then for each factor, the ranks given by each respondent are counted to arrive at the mean value of the scores shown in Table 4. The factors having the highest mean value is considered the most important factor and ranked first lowest mean value is considered the least fitting job preference among the working women. Among all the given preferences, the table depicts that women prefer jobs as per their skill.

Almost 60 percent of women prefer working with the government rather than the private sector. Women in Kashmir are very particular about the nature of their job. They prefer job that is secured, insured, pensionable, acceptable in society, and have incentives, provision for child, and perks and privileges. That is the reason majority preference has been a government job. While talking with some respondents with higher qualifications working as clerks in the banking sector, we found them fully aware of high-package private sector job opportunities, but lack of vibrant private sector employment opportunities in Kashmir makes them to work in a setting where they don’t get the job satisfaction. The monopoly of the public sector and lack of private sector due to political instability, poor infrastructure, geographical, climatic conditions, etc. has virtually limited the choice of youth especially women to look for better career prospects. The desirability of a government job has been one of the enduring findings of youth-focused studies that are based on surveys, polls, and qualitative fieldwork (Barsoum and Mostafa, 2014).

Table 2: Calculation of Percentage Positions and their corresponding Garrett score (N= 379)

Rank Formula Percentage position Garett Scores
1 100(1-0.5)/7 7.14 78
2 100(2-0.5)/7 21.42 66
3 100(3-0.5)/7 35.71 57
4 100(4-0.5)/7 50 50
5 100(5-0.5)/7 64.25 42
6 100(6-0.5)/7 78.57 34
7 100(7-0.5)/7 92.85 22

 Source: Author’s calculation based on field survey

Table 3: Ranked preferences of the respondents (N=379)

Preferences  Average score Rank
Job as per skill 62.85 1
Government Job 59.8 2
Any job 52.91 3
High Profile Job 52.00 4
Private Job 51.9 5
No preference 44.16 6
Low profile job 24.33 7

Source: Author’s Calculation based on field survey

Table 4. depicts the mean value among the women belonging to three categories: Education, Health, and Finance. It is found that across the three sectors, women have a strong preference for government jobs. The second-best choice for women is any high-profile private sector job. Women of Kashmir have the least preference for low-profile jobs which can be attributed as one of the reasons of the low Participation of women in the labour market.

Table 4: Calculation of Mean values among different categories of the respondents (N=379)

Sectors No Preference Low Profile Job High Profile Job Any Job Gov ern ment Job Private Job
Education Sector 42.95 23.99 55.02 52.65 58.93 51.69
Health Sector 45.60 23.65 52.48 52.83 60.25 52.06
Financial Sector 44.11 25.25 48.68 53.24 60.53 52.03

 Source: Author’s Calculation based on field survey.

The role of other factors like distance to the workplace from home, job security, nature of work i.e., challenging and less time-consuming, secured and prospectus job, availability of support from the family, control over money and other cultural factors have been presented in table 5. The Henry Garret ranking test was also applied here to identify which of the factors are preferred the most and least by women while choosing a job. It was also seen that women have given least preference to challenging jobs with respect to working hours, working conditions, technical skills etc. Women prefer jobs that have security, pay remuneration as per the qualifications, have the prospect of promotion and provide social safety nets, women-specific leaves, incentives and post retirements benefits. Women also prefer jobs that are less time-consuming and give them enough time to look after the family. As per the literature available, women prefer to work within the vicinities of their homes, but the present study’s findings reveal a different story. Given the chance, women are willing to migrate to other places for better job opportunities.

Table 5: Ranking of preferences of the respondents while choosing a job 

Preferences Average score Rank
Security in terms of continuation and retirement benefits  59.96 1
Handsome salary as per qualification. 59.24 2
 Prospect of Promotion 58.21 3
A symbol of social status 54.25 4
Easy terms and conditions that provide enough room for family affairs 58.21 5
Posting in hometown 52.75 6
Any kind of Challenging job 51.07 7

Source: Author’s Calculation based on field survey.

Figure 1: Required Support from the Family

 Source: Author’s Calculation based field survey

Some open-ended questions were asked to respondents during the field survey to get an idea about women’s work and her satisfaction with the overall environment around them. The above figure presents a picture of one such condition. Almost 90 percent of respondents revealed that they lack family support. So, the argument is that simply being employed is probably not enough to ensure women’s empowerment because working does not necessarily allow women to challenge the power structures that prevent their agency to all important affairs of household and society, (Kabeer 1997; Sen 1999; Pearson 2004) holds good in case present study too. Empowerment is also impeded because women’s employment is often survival-driven and does not affect changes in gender relations, women’s low earnings do not offer them entitlements to social protection, employment does not relieve the burden of domestic labor, it does not increase political Participation and it does not lead to equal property rights (Pearson 2004; Baruah 2005). Despite these barriers, employment, under the right conditions, can be an important factor in the promotion of women’s empowerment.


The analysis of the data about job satisfaction and preferences reveals that factors like availability of educational facilities, employment as a matter of status in society, job as a sense of freedom and economic independence, family resistance towards women’s workforce participation have a significant impact on women choices about entering the world of work. The estimates for the education sector and health sector show that women strongly prefer high-profile government jobs whereas respondents from the financial sector believe that any government job other than the banking sector is good for women. Least preference for jobs that are challenging in nature with respect to working hours, working conditions, technical skills, etc. Strong preference for high-paid, secure, and promotion-oriented jobs that they deserve as per their qualifications and provide them social safety nets, women-specific leaves, incentives, and post retirements benefits. Strong preference for jobs that are less taxing and hence give them enough leisure time to look after the family. It was also found that given the chance women are willing to migrate to other places for better job opportunities. While discussing the factors that determine job profile and preferences, it was found that location, family support, orthodoxy, social construct, cultural obligations, health issues, etc. directly impact women’s workforce participation across the sample districts. Mean value among the women belonging to three categories: Education, Health, and Finance show a strong preference for government jobs across the three sectors. The second-best choice for women is any high-profile private sector job. Women of Kashmir have the least preference for low-profile jobs which can be attributed as one of the reasons of the low Participation of women in labour market.

While interacting with respondents, it was observed that in most cases, family resistance towards women workforce participation have also limited their choices about exercising their preferences and enjoying job satisfaction, hence, empowerment. In response to family support or willingness to women’s work participation, approximately 30 percent of women believed that women should not do their job if they face family resistance. Peace of mind and stability in the family is more important so women should avoid persistent conflict within the family. Family support as reflected in Figure 1 presents a dismal picture. While interacting with working women, there emerged a consensus among them about the traditional approach of duties of women towards family as the primary concern. This attitude of society has left working women with no option but to overburden themselves and keep on striking a balance between family and job. It is startling to find that 90 percent of women do not get the required support from their families to fulfill job requirements. The data further reveals that family complaints about working women being engrossed in professional life and paying less attention to family matters. In many other families, working women carry a stigma that they cannot raise their children well because they do not spend much time with their children. This also weakens the bond between the mother and the child. Such an attitude towards women’s labour market participation and so-called "fixed Domain" hinders their workplace performance too, lowering the chances of promotion to higher decision-making positions.


By way of conclusion, we can say that employment that generates income definitely increases the well-being of workers and the welfare of his/her family. But so far as empowering women through employment are concerned, it is possible if women’s issues are mainstreamed. They along with men will have to be an integral part of National Development policy, strategies, and programmes. Gender justice and equality are not mere outcomes of women-specific employment and other schemes but instruments of balanced development for both men and women or what we call as "Gender mainstreaming". In the changing context of the present-day world, women’s productive/economic role needs to be expanded and recognized at the household and community level. Equal access and control over economic resources, opportunities, and assets be ensured by the enforcement authorities through amendments in laws and reforms so that women get the choice to identify, pursue, and achieve their own/collective economic aspirations. Financial and social independence by way of earning money as well as a place in society is considered one of the important steps towards women’s empowerment.

(Authors: Effat Yasmin, Prof. Department of Economics, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, India, fgulwani[at] & Sumair Nabi, Research Scholar, Department of Economics, University of Kashmir, Srinagar, India, sumairnabi[at]


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