Women's work and Family Status in Economic Development: A Study of Southern-China Villages
Yuhsia Lu (Institute of Sociology Academia Sinica)
This study compares women’s work and their familial status between two rural areas in Southern China which have undergone different modes of economic development. The main purpose is to explore the variety of women’s economic activities during economic development and the influence of those activities on their familial status. Based on the in-depth interviews of 32 cases and a sampling survey of 200 cases, this study found that women’s work patterns are significantly different between the two modes of local economic development. Women are more likely to be involved in wage work rather than self-employed or unpaid family work in Sung-Chiang where the economic development is primarily based on government-level, collective enterprises while in Jing-Chiang, where the economic development primarily based on private family enterprises, women are more likely to be unpaid family workers for their family firms.
The findings indicate further that women’s work patterns may contribute to the significant difference of women’s familial status between the two areas. Those Sung-Chiang women who mostly work at the collective business are more likely to share the decision making at home with their husband than their counterparts in Jing-Chiang, where the traditional norms of gender roles are largely persisted. It’s possible that Sung-Chiang women’s independent income from their wang work increases their relative resources and thereby their family status. However, the findings of case analysis disclose the possibility that in spite of the persisting gender norms, those Jing-Chiang women can be empowered through their involvement in the family business assuming their responsibility under the survival strategy of the family firms.