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Pak Dev Rev. 1986 Winter;25(4):593-608.

Productive and reproductive choices: report of a pilot survey of urban working women in Karachi.



The primary objective of the pilot survey of urban working women in Karachi was to collect information on women's productive and reproductive choices within the context of the conditions in their household. A sample of working women in the formal sectors was selected through procurement of lists of personnel from factories, government offices, and so forth. The sample was not chosen systematically. The intention was not only to sample but to identify commonly found occupations among women. The sample of 110 working women included respondents between 19-50 years. 93 of these women were currently married, 6 were separated or divorced, and 11 were widowed. Most of the ethnic groups living in Karachi were represented. The sample includes 3 distinct socioeconomic groups: highly educated women employed in high status jobs with earnings above the average; women of lower middle class backgrounds who work in the formal sector but in lower-status occupations as compared with those of the professional group; and mostly uneducated women who work as low-status workers and whose incomes are meager. More than 70% of the women gave financial pressure as a reason for their entering the labor force. Women for whom the important reason for work was pursuit of a career or job satisfaction were highly educated and employed in high-status, remunerative jobs. Only 20 of the sample of 110 women worked for noneconomic reasons. Of 64 women working as factory workers, domestic servants, and other miscellaneous workers in the informal sector, there were only 2 women working out of choice. Women who worked before marriage comprised nearly 51% of the sample. There was a very strong positive association between work before marriage and level of education and occupation. A much larger percentage of educated women in professional jobs worked before marriage as compared with their uneducated or less educated counterparts. The majority of women in the static, low-income occupations did not work before marriage and did not take up a job until at least 6 years after marriage. The working women's contribution to household income was markedly higher in the poorer strata. The most frequent child care surrogates were the respondent's eldest daughter, mother, and mother-in-law, in that order. Women who worked in professional and clerical occupations had much lower fertility, particularly as compared with women who work as domestic servants and also as compared with artisans. There was a negative association between the income a woman earned and her fertility behavior, and fertility differentials by education were stronger than those by income. Uneducated women, on average, had a mean parity of 6.3 children as compared with that of 2.3 children for women with at least a bachelor of arts degree.

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