A Critical Analysis of Women Employment

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: April, 2020

Betalo Endrias Liranso
School of Sociology & Political Science, Shanghai University
Shanghai, China

Journal Full Text PDF: A Critical Analysis of Women Employment.

Throughout Ethiopian history, all rulers left the patriarchal setting of society relatively undisturbed and conveniently remained ignorant of its implications. The feminine domains of work and existence and their traditional ways of doing things widely exist. This paper tries to analysis critically women employment in Ethiopia by employing qualitative content analysis method by using only secondary data sources. This provides insights into the employment of women in Ethiopia. Employment of women seems to have been taken over by ruling party cadres and monopolized for biased political interventions. Instead, it is actively used to misdirect the intervention strategies and weigh those from the angle of benefits to the party. The government, though, does not allow for any room for women to venture in these areas, unless controlled by its cadres. However, this situation has been changing under the new administration by new Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed through the introduction of massive reforms particularly economic empowerment of women.

Keywords: Employment, Job Opportunities & Women.

According to UNICEF (2017) and CSA (2017), Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, with a highly diverse population of about 105 million people (50.46 percent men and boys and 49.54 percent women and girls) and an annual population growth rate of 2.6 percent. Total area of Ethiopia covers 1,103,609 square meters, located in the horn of Africa; its plateau covers 2/3 of the country. About 83 percent of its population lives in rural areas and depends entirely on rain fed agriculture for livelihoods. About 42 percent of Ethiopians are under 15 years of age.
World Bank (2017b) and Sachs et al. (2017), although Ethiopia has the fastest growing economy in the region, it remains one of the poorest, with 23 percent of its population living below $1.90 a day. Growth in the agricultural sector contributed towards poverty reduction. While agriculture remains an important part of the economy, particularly in rural areas where 55 percent of women and 83 percent men work in agriculture, services and manufacturing have become increasingly important sectors of the economy. Ethiopia is particularly susceptible to climate-related shocks. USAID (2017a), due to the 2015–2016 El Niño-related drought and repeated poor rainy seasons, an estimated 8.5 million people in Ethiopia are facing food insecurity. Additionally, due to drought in neighbouring Somalia and conflicts in the surrounding region, nearly 893,938 refugees have fled to Ethiopia, making it host to the second largest refugee population in Africa.
USAID (2017b), Ethiopia has a large population of internally displaced persons due to conflict in the Oromia and Somali regions. Although the country is said to have been developing at a very good rate in terms of economic development, in 2015; the country faced a series of violent protests. Human rights groups reported that hundreds of people had been killed by security forces and thousands put in jail. The demonstrations started peacefully in Oromia region and expanded to the Amhara region with demands for the respect of political, civil, social and economic rights. In response, the government imposed martial law in October 2016. Then came the big news in 2017: Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn resigned. After intensive behind the-scene deliberations, Dr. Abiy Ahmed was elected the chairman of the ruling party and eventually became Prime Minister of Ethiopia in April 2018.
The new administration by new prime minister able to bring tangible changes through a move towards inclusive democracy and solutions for the various socio-economic challenges the country faces. He introduced massive reforms including the release of thousands of political prisoners and proposing the privatization of some of the companies owned by the state. The ground-breaking peace agreement with Eritrea of July 2018 is a major positive development for both countries and for the wider Horn of Africa. However, still; the pace of structural transformation of the economy is constrained by insufficient levels of private investment in manufacturing, inadequate promotion of entrepreneurship, particularly among women and young people, and low growth in non-farm rural employment, especially in small and microenterprises. Climate shocks and inter communal conflict destabilize rural livelihoods, contributing to rapid urbanization in country.
Opportunities for off-farm employment in rural areas remain limited, leading rural women and men to seek employment as domestic workers in cities. While women comprise 63 percent of migrants to urban areas, only 55 percent of women are employed versus 71 percent of men. Rapid urbanization is resulting in increased numbers of poor and food-insecure households living in urban and peri-urban areas. While the Government’s flagship policies and programmes aim to be gender-transformative, gender-responsive planning and budgeting at the national and sub national levels is limited. Gender inequalities limit women’s access to education, employment and health services.
This paper tried to analysis women employment in Ethiopia by employing qualitative content analysis method, because; it helps in locating and analyzing data and addressing the topic. I only use secondary data sources from study centre like libraries and online and attempted to clarify and examine the assumptions and process which have underpinned from beginning to end. This provides insights into the employment of women in Ethiopia.
The paper starts with introducing the general economic, political, and demographic and urbanization situation of Ethiopia. Then, analysis of women employment: opportunities and challenges in Ethiopia (overview, problems, causes and suggestions). Lastly, deals with conclusion parts.

2.1 General Overview
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia had no such agenda and did not consider women’s advancement an issue. Besides, his actions on women education as part of its general education policy affecting both women and men in society. He did not design special measures for women and did nothing to alter traditional gender perceptions in society. According to Rhode (1994) shows that most of the educated women were not sensitive to their own problems and functioned as part of society, abiding by their feminine roles. Some found employment in the emperor’s bureaucracy.
After the fall down of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Derg made it clear that would not tolerate any resistance from anyone to achieving its own goals. According to Randall (1982) in the first year of its power, women activists advance their agenda on mobilizing rural women in some regions of Ethiopia. They exploited the available job opportunities at the time, but that did not last long. After the Red Terror, the Derg assumed complete monopoly on women, dictating its course and actions. There was no indication of altering the traditional female and male domains in women employment
After the end of Derg regime, from 1991 onwards; the current government of Ethiopia under EPRDF rule brought new hope to women, who started to explore cautiously their opportunities for progress and employment. According to Parpart and Staudt (1989), the ruling party set up its own national women’s machinery in the form of women’s affairs offices and bureaus to keep women’s actions under close scrutiny throughout the country. Interventions are closely monitored and clearly directed, based on its National Policy on Ethiopian Women which is promulgated as the ultimate instrument for women employment.
Political and legal changes have created opportunities to increase the employment of women professionals in many sectors across the country. Nevertheless, the pace of change in relation to women professional has often been slow and progress has generally been uneven in all public and private institutions in Ethiopia. For many rural households, seasonal wage employment and related social protection programmes is vital. Harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and cutting and the marriage of girls affect the health and education outcomes of girls and reinforce the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition and engendered poverty.
UNICEF (November, 2004), throughout its history, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world not only because it lacks resources, but also because it ignores the plight of more than 50% of its population. By treating women as second-class citizens, women in every sense are demoted and marginalized, ending up in poverty. Poverty in turn becomes an accumulative and structural factor increasing problems affecting women. The poverty women face is not only in material terms, where the feminization of poverty is rampant and most notable, but also in the invisible forms of culturally induced and politically condoned forms of deprivations, such as deprivations of freedom, rights, and independence, individuality and employment opportunities.

2.2 Women Employment in Ethiopia
Study by Zenebework (1976) indicates that historically, the first educated women found employment in the government sector as bureaucrats or in the newly emerging professions of education and health. However, the labour market started to show clear signs of gender stratification according to masculine and feminine work. Society was also not ready yet to accept women working outside the homes. The traditional perceptions guiding women’s education seem to have gained entrance also in their employment. Many believed that there was no need for women to get a job since they would be provided for by their husbands. This belief largely informed women’s low level of employment. Not all the educated women were employed and those employed remained small in numbers compared to men. Those who were employed found jobs in the soft sectors, such as secretarial jobs, nursing and teaching in elementary schools.
According to CSA data (2017), the education and consequent employment level of women shows a slight improvement during the current regime. The formal employment market sees 23% of women employed. This includes employment as physicians, lecturers, teachers, lawyers, nurses, and so on. The majority of women have little education and find employment in the lower sections of the formal employment market. The Gender Studies department which became operational in 1995 still has a long way to go to become a centre of feminist activities. Currently it is fully endorsed as a mainstream academic institution of the university as long as it remains depoliticized and de radicalized. The lack of radicals is glaring as the department is seriously understaffed. There is also no commitment yet to be engaged in feminist research and theorizing from the point of view of Ethiopian women’s conditions. In the end, instead of playing a facilitative role to transform patriarchal setting of the institute and providing the umbrella to co-ordinate gender research and epistemology, this institute seems to do otherwise.

2.3 Causes for Women Employment in Ethiopia
In order to effectively impose its plans and policies on the female masses, a national institution for the advancement of Women was set up as early as 1992 by the current regime. The Women’s Affairs Office and World Bank (1998) state that the overall aim of the policy on women is to institutionalize the political, economic, and social rights of women by creating appropriate structures in government offices and institutions so that the public policies and interventions are gender-sensitive and can ensure equitable development for all Ethiopians. Byrne et al. (1996), the new structure of gender mainstreaming had included for the advancement of the ruling party’s interests in all public and private organizations. It is mere instrument to facilitate government directives and policies.
The 1995 Constitution of Federal government of Ethiopia said to have renewed the commitment to the gender policy and clearly expresses legislative support for women through its various articles. For example, Article 25 prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender. Article 35 is the most comprehensive law regarding women’s rights and consists of nine sub-provisions. These are stipulations on the equal enjoyment of rights; equality of rights in marriage; entitlement to affirmative measures; freedom from harmful traditional practices; maternity leave; equal participation in programme planning and implementation; equal rights on property ownership; equality in employment; and full access to reproductive health care.
Many international conventions on the rights of women which include: The Convention on Discrimination of Employment and Occupation (ratified in 1966), The Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1969), The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (1981), The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991), The Convention on the Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (ratified in 1969) that Ethiopia have signed have direct bearing on the rights of women and protect them.
According to Meaza (2002), the government Ethiopia has also introduced affirmative measures for the equal representation of women in employment, education and political leadership. Ironically, resistance against affirmative measures is mounting, specifically from ruling party woman cadre. They challenge its democratic nature and how beneficiaries would simply lack representation and the capacity to deliver.

2.4 Suggestions
Throughout Ethiopian history, all rulers left the patriarchal setting of society relatively undisturbed, and conveniently remained ignorant of its implications. Ethiopian society has a severe division of labour that is unique. When observing and analysing this division of society and tasks, one cannot avoid realizing its exploitation of women. Being married at very young ages and exposed to hazardous forms of work, young girls experienced the worst forms of health complications imaginable. Carrying loads on their backs literally contributed to the vulnerability of their back, legs, necks and arms, cooking in smoke-filled kitchens affected their breathing capacity and lungs and further complications of early pregnancy and childbirth all caused their health to deteriorate rapidly. The traditional make-up of society continues to confine women’s health status to their maternal well-being. Nothing else is considered beyond this domain.
Still the majority of women had never received any form of education. The government introduced a new education policy in 1993 which was very promising and well-adjusted to the global demands on education. This policy aimed to correct many of the ills in the education sector that had emerged during the Derg era. Girls’ enrolment ratios remain low and the gender disparity between the different regions and between the rural-urban divide also seems to have increased. Poverty among women is a very complicated issue. Women will do anything to survive, even if it means they may participate in selling parts of their organs, or body, or engaging in all kinds of odd work. This is why because formal employment market in Ethiopia today slight and only accounted 23% of women seeking job.

There are many opportunities and related challenges on women in Ethiopia under rigid patriarchal setting of the society. The problem though is that not all aspects of women’s lives have been subject to transformation and some of the rigid areas remain unaltered. These include the perceptions and practical areas of the feminine domains of work and existence and their traditional ways of doing things. For example, food preparation has undergone the least changes, except among a small group of elite urbanites. Even then, the majority have cooks and servants to do the work in traditional manners.
Employment of women seems to have been taken over by party cadres and monopolized for biased political interventions. Policies and laws are evidence of the party’s high level awareness on the issues. This awareness, though, is not directed to relieve women of their suffering. Instead, it is actively used to misdirect the intervention strategies and weigh those from the angle of their benefits to the party. The government, though, does not allow for any room for women to venture in these areas, unless controlled by its cadres. Today, these situations have been changing under the new administration by new Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed through the introduction of massive reforms particularly economic empowerment of women and creation of different job opportunities for women in Ethiopia, half of the total population.

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