Women's economic empowerment and formal income: Sri Lankan Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and their impact on gender perceptions of empowerment
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
Women workers in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Sri Lanka are often exposed to harsh working conditions and a range of negative social experiences due to their perceived low social status. Research has demonstrated that they experience both empowerment and disempowerment as a result of formal employment. The authors explore the differences between female Sri Lankan EPZ workers who felt empowered (n = 2196) and those who did not (n = 107), and investigate factors that contribute to empowerment. The analysis reveals a significant difference between the two groups of workers: empowered women had a longer history of employment service, saved significantly more money, and contributed much less to their family than non-empowered women. There were no significant differences in social experiences between the groups. However, the work-related variables used to investigate reported influential factors in empowerment demonstrated that as savings increased so too did the likelihood of empowerment. Conversely, as the proportion of the contribution to the family income increased, the odds of reporting empowerment decreased. The findings suggest that work factors may not be the most important in the establishment of and/or reporting empowerment but rather earnings management and contribution to household appear to be a more significant determining factor.