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What Works for Her? How Work-from-home Digital Jobs Affect Female Labor Force Participation

Work & Education India

Photo credit: Suhani Jalota

Study Context

Earning income is a means of livelihood, dignity and respect. Despite women contributing more to the household, they are able to exert less power in their families and in society. Social norms may hold women back from entering the labor force in order to maintain the established power dynamic within the household. In India, the belief that, when women work for wages, it is an indicator of low family status can encourage women’s seclusion from the labor force. This project aims to provide experimental evidence to show how social norms may constrain female labor force participation by providing newer digital job opportunities and paid work-from-home opportunities.

The study results will be directly relevant for labor policies. If digital jobs through smartphones indeed increase employment levels, subsequent income levels and agency, mental health, dignity, and other wellbeing outcomes, then providing more home-based jobs for women could be an important policy solution for solving massive under-employment problems among women and youth.

Study Design

Through a six-armed randomized control evaluation, the research observes how providing more suitable employment to women may change women’s employment status and job performance, if at all, and the effects of this employment on women’s overall agency, mental health, dignity, and social norms.

Women are provided with work-from-home (WfH) and work-from-center (WfC) jobs at different payment levels to understand the importance of the existing constraints affiliated with outside work. As payment levels increase in the WfC arms, the “outside costs” of women’s work do not change, only the social signal associated with the payment level changes. Further, the study randomizes the work arrangement to be either flexible or fixed for work at different payment levels.

Results and Policy Lessons

Ongoing project; results forthcoming.


2022 — 2023

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