Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Female Labour Force Participation and Fertility Desires in Pakistan: An Empirical Investigation

Female labour force participation as a factor affecting fertility has recently attracted considerable attention in both, developing and developed societies. It has been theorized that female work would have a depressing effect on fertility because of the high opportunity cost involved in high fertility. On the other hand, it has been argued that higher family income could induce more fertility. Some of the socio-demographic reasons that determine female work status could explain differentials in fertility desires. A number of important reasons which lead women to work can be identified : the availability of jobs, the economic ‘push’ from low family income, husband’s attitude towards wife’s work, attractiveness of the job in terms of monetary and/or psychological satisfaction, etc. Two distinct, though related, hypotheses about the relationship between female work and fertility can be summarized from relevant studies. The first hypothesis pertains to the motivation leading to female work. Jobs could be taken up sheerly out of economic necessity or because the woman wants to develop a career for reasons other than purely economic. The first type of jobs might be conceived as being motivated by ‘push’ factors while the second type would be motivated by ‘pull’ factors, given other variables such as job availability. This differential motivation to work would be related to the wife’s attitude towards having additional children.’ In the former case, family size itself might be one of the factors which ‘pushed’ the wife into the labour force. The cost of reducing fertility (i.e. not having another child) in this case, however, might, under some circumstances be high, because having additional children might, for example, be perceived as being economically profitable in terms of providing farm hands, old age security, ete. Furthermore, the competition between procreation and female work participation would not be very great since the job was taken up because of necessity rather than for self and career development. The motivation to curtail fertility would thus be minimal. On the other hand, we would expect greater competition between female work and fertility in case of a woman who took up a job in order to develop her career and personality in addition to the economic incentive provided by her work

Nasra M. Shah

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