Summary of publication
The Other Side of Formal Employment: Working Women How have Returned to their Communities and Villages in Sri-Lanka is an Australian Development Research Awards Scheme (ADRAS) research project which was awarded in the last ADRAS round in 2012. The research was carried out by Edith Cowan University from April 2013 – November 2016. The objective of the project was to explore to what extent women have been able to sustain their economic and social empowerment after leaving their formal employment in Sri Lanka’s manufacturing industry and returning to their communities.
The research findings reflect a generally positive picture of life after formal employment for women in Sri Lanka. These working women, who have since returned to their communities and villages, believed they were socially and financially better off than others who had not yet taken the opportunity to work in the nation’s manufacturing industry. In fact, around half of the women who participated in the research continued to work in some capacity after returning home. Women in local communities appeared motivated by these working women, many of whom self-identified as the main breadwinner, with control over family decisions or fiscal outcomes and even owning or co-owning their own property. Women expressed satisfaction in the knowledge they were no longer reliant on males and viewed as a burden to family or others in the community, but instead were perceived as more equal. The research findings suggest that these female former factory workers felt empowered from their time in formal employment and continued to build on foundations of personal, familial and community capacity. However, in a rapidly modernising Sri Lanka, there remain contradictions as to what is expected of such women. Many felt welcomed by their families and neighbours only so long as they continued to earn an income and contribute financially.