In this research project, we will look at two important aspects of women's empowerment: labour force participation and political participation. We will look at the relationship between jobs and participating in politics, and will look at how this relationship will be affected by change in political context.
Studies from developed/democratic contexts show that when the percentage of women working increases, women?s political participation also grows. In authoritarian and/or less developed contexts, or where there is a transition from one regime type to another, this relationship is less clear. Moreover, existing studies are not able to establish a causal relationship between jobs and political participation, but simply demonstrate that the two factors covariate. Although these phenomena coincide, we cannot say that one leads to the other. With our research design, which includes a large randomized control study, spacial data analysis and in-depth interviews, we can actually say something about how women's participation is affects political participation. This will provide unique knowledge and will be a new contribution to the literature in this field.
We ask the following questions: Do jobs have a causal effect on political participation? Will regime change from more to less authoritarian rule increase women's political participation? Is the effect of jobs different under different political regimes? We look specifically at women in the factory industry in Ethiopia, one of the world's fastest growing economies. Over the past decade, new job opportunities for women have opened up in this industry.
From 2018, the authoritarian regime will begin a process of political reform. But signs indicate that this reform process has now been stopped or reversed, especially after the outbreak of the war in Tigray in northern Ethiopia from November 2020. Since we already have a large data set from before and during the reform process and follow up with new data also after 2020, we have a unique opportunity to follow a dramatic political development in the country. We are still in the data analysis process, and will compliment survey data with qualitative interviews on the ground when it is now possible to travel after the pandemic. We have conducted two periods of qualiatative fieldworks in 2022. An article on the causality between jobs and political participation has in late 2022 been accepted in one of the top journals in political science, the Journal of Politics. This is a great recognition of the project, the unique data and research design that we have.
The project outlines an ambitious and bold research agenda, addressing fundamental challenges to the study of female political participation and empowerment. Mainstream economics posits that when a woman enters the labor market, her status is strengthened and it is easier for her to participate on other arenas, like the political one. The evidence for this is mixed, and, more importantly, relatively weak as the results from previous studies are likely confounded by other factors. Using field experiments in Ethiopia, a country with impressive economic growth and political reforms, we study if and how women’s participation in the job market increases the chances of political participation, and how a political transition affects this.
Studies from developed/democratic contexts demonstrate that when the percentage of women working increases, women’s political participation also grows. In authoritarian and/or less developed contexts, or where there is a political transition from one regime type to another, this relationship is less clear. Moreover, existing studies are not able to establish a causal relationship between jobs and political participation, but simply demonstrate that the two factors covariate. Connected to Ethiopia’s economic growth, new industries have expanded female job opportunities, and more women are working outside than before. From 2018, the authoritarian regime started a political reform process, expanding the opportunities for political participation. This unique setting, combined with our research design of a large randomized control trial, spatial data analyses, and in-depth interviews enable us to provide new and unique knowledge. We already have a large data set from before and during the transition. If complemented with data from after the reforms, this will enable us to trace the changes and connect them causally with women’s empowerment and political participation, and identify the effects of jobs in the stages of transition.