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Factors Associated with Female Labour Force Participation in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province

Using primary data, this study investigates the factors that affect womens labour market choices and opportunities in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. The study finds that by and large economic necessity pushes women to the labour market and to secure gainful employment. Financial affluence obviates such a pressure, but higher educational attainments, access to earning assets, or having participated in a livelihood development programme enables womens participation and employment. The effects of gender norms women have internalized appear to be quite small on their participation and employment decisions. But the findings suggest that the patriarchal values imposed by the household may have a larger effect on womens LFP, especially among Muslim women. The armed conflict experiences seem to draw women to the work force out of poverty, while the spatial variables point to structural weaknesses of the Easts labour market. The study concludes that regional economic development and human capital development should be better geared towards creating meaningful economic opportunities for women.

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