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Title: The labour market choices of married women in low-income Beirut : structures, strategies and subjectivities
Author: Mhaissen, Rouba Abdul Hadi
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 9918
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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The development literature establishes a correlation between changes in a set of variables and increases in labour force participation by women. The Middle East and the North African (MENA) region have experienced considerable progress in those indicators; however, women's economic participation rates have remained low and relatively stagnant over the last decade. Lebanon, and more specifically Beirut, is a pertinent case study of this paradox. This research uses a theoretical model linking the empowerment literature, household bargaining models, and theories on decision-making, to unpack the choices of married women in low-income Beirut vis-à-vis the labour markets. It employs an intersectional and interdisciplinary methodology, and a mixed qualitative and quantitative method. The quantitative component is a survey of 400 women in Beirut, which attempts to determine general trends and sketches out the profiles of women in the labour markets in Beirut (their backgrounds, household characteristics, labour market profiles, and perceptions). The qualitative constituent is a qualitative account that is based on a study of 80 married, economically active and inactive women from low-income Beirut, scrutinising their decision-making processes with regards to the labour market. While the empowerment paradigm places the economic activity of women as one of the main pathways to their empowerment and advancement, women's lives, choices and subjectivities in low-income Beirut are much more complex than this theory suggests. Their decision-making is an outcome of a multifaceted web of structural, institutional and legal constraints, as well as of social pressures and expectations. Choices regarding work are intertwined with dynamics surrounding marriage- and a fragile equilibrium in their conjugal lives involving complex intra-household bargaining. It also rests on several factors, such as their definition of work, a cost benefit analysis of the choice to be economically active, and their desires: a continuum between structure and agency. Additionally, the context of low-income Beirut -a patriarchal, connective, relational setting that lacks state services and the adequate valuation of women's contributions- proves to be a disempowering context for women involved in the labour market at times. Finally, many women chose to be economically inactive, something that the literature does not engage with fully in its attempts to explain the puzzle of low labour force participation by women in the MENA region.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral