All over the world, women strive daily to balance their dual roles as workers in the labour market and as the primary caretakers of children. Unlike most men, women face an added challenge of having an overlap of years where they’re at their reproductive peak and their most economically productive years. In a number of cases, skilled women who have formal sector jobs and high wages are more likely to postpone marriage and raising children to accommodate work and their careers.
Women’s access to healthcare also varies significantly across countries and even within countries. These variations have large repercussions since well-paying jobs and access to childcare services and healthcare play a crucial role in women’s ability to carry out their fertility intentions and to plan the timing and spacing of pregnancies and births.
In many developing countries, the pressures of having children whilst employed often relegates women to the informal sector, where the work arrangements are insecure and also lack important safeguards for pay and working conditions, according to the United Nations.
The relationship between women’s reproductive decisions are likely to be linked to employment decisions, since women may rely mainly on the informal sector for employment in their pursuit of flexibility, particularly during their peak childbearing years.
INTERSECTIONS OF WOMEN’S ECONOMIC AND REPRODUCTIVE EMPOWERMENT
In the developing world, women end up being relegated to the informal sector as they aim to balance care responsibilities with participation in the labour market. The “choice” of formal and informal work will vary and is greatly influenced by women’s reproductive empowerment, which includes women’s ability to make decisions around fertility, expressing their sexual rights, and the accessibility to a full range of reproductive healthcare services.
Recent studies found that home-based workers cited the ability to combine paid care work and childcare as the primary reason they engaged in home-based care. Moreover, women who held low-skilled jobs decided to start their own micro-businesses rather than return to formal work after having children.
In countries where the economy favours more formal employment and statutory rights to maternity and paternity leave, and where there is more extensive social protection and more effective labour market institutions, more women are likely to work in the formal economy.
Financial empowerment of women – their choice of where and when to work is linked to reproductive empowerment and the choice about the timing, spacing, and number of children to have.