IS PAID WORK THE (ONLY) ANSWER? NEOLIBERALISM, ARAB WOMEN’S WELL-BEING, AND THE SOCIAL CONTRACT Jennifer C. Olmsted INTRODUCTION Akey concern of those interested in women’s well-being is which factors determine women’s economic conditions. Within the context of South West Asia and North Africa (SWANA),1 attention has been drawn to the low rates of paid employment among women (Moghadam and Khoury 1995; Olmsted 1999; World Bank 2004b), with the argument often being made that this is an indication ofwomen’s “underutilization” and vulnerability . While not disagreeing that access to paid employment may create more options for women, following work by other feminist economists, in this paper I argue that concluding that increases in women’s paid employment necessarily will be linked to an improvement in women’s economic status is problematic, particularlygiven gender role expectations,which in turn lead to an asymmetrical distribution ofreproductive labor in SWANA (as well as elsewhere).
Is Paid Work the (Only) Answer? Neoliberalism, Arab Women's Well-Being, and the Social Contract
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