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1.1       Background of Study

In many countries across the globe, the debate on female labor force participation has been on stage for over three decades in many countries around the world. One of the most striking phenomena of recent times has been the extent to which women have increased their share in the labor force; in both developed and developing countries, the increasing participation of women in paid work has been driving employment trends and the gender gaps in labor force participation rates have been shrinking. Especially in the 1980s and early 1990s, labor force growth was substantially higher for women than for men for every region of the world except Africa. In the developed industrialized countries, increasing female labor force participation has been linked to the completion of the fertility transition. In many developing countries, however, fertility decline has been slow or stalled1. A study argues that women constitute more or less half of any country’s population2. However, he opined that in most countries, women contribute much less than men towards the value of recorded production both quantitatively in labor force participation and qualitatively in educational achievement and skilled manpower.

In the world today women account for more than half of the world's population, perform two-thirds of the hours work, receive one-tenth of the world's income, and have less than one hundredth of the world's property registered in their names3. In most countries however, women contribute much less than men towards the value of recorded production both quantitatively in labour force supply and qualitatively in educational achievement and skilled manpower4. Female deprivation is particularly acute in the developing countries with high levels of poverty, though in affluent nations women also suffer low status due to conservative attitudes. Despite its significance for the development of women, the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of women has remained substantially lower than that of men in the world such that there were only 68 women per 100 men participating in wage earning productive activity in the 20015. The Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of women varies widely from one country to another as well. In 2001, LFPR of women while staying below 30% in countries like Oman, Malta, Belize, it was above 60% in countries like Iceland, Sweden, and Canada. The situation in some countries is somehow different when looking at the estimates presented by UNDP, female labour force participation rates in 1998 were about 77% in Canada, 95% in France, 74% in Germany, 67% in Japan, 84 percent in Sweden and 77 percent in the United States6.

In the last three decades, the global economy has witnessed the increasing visibility of women, which is partly an outcome of social and political movements that have championed women’s rights7. He further argues that feminist scholars have equally been in the forefront of making women’s contribution to the political economy visible through related scholarship and research. Counting women into the big-picture, therefore, is a fundamental first-step in recognizing their role in socio-economic structures. Along with women’s increasing visibility, it is necessary to analyze the constraints and conditions within which women contribute to the economy.

Improvements in the wellbeing of women are not measured merely in terms of access to resources but also in terms of their sense of worth and dignity. Forms of employment, quality of employment and access to social security conditions are also invariably linked to welfare of women. Employment opportunities available to women need to realize their potential capabilities8.

The Nigerian situation shows that between 1971 and 2004, the percentage of women rose from 12% to 70% of the work force due to women’s participation in further and higher education9. However distinct differences exist in the types of occupation entered by women and men. Women got more jobs in administrative, clerical, personal services and sales occupation, Apart from moving into law, medicine and accountancy, there was no similar movement into science, engineering, ICT and the skilled trades.

Women were not found in managerial occupations: overall, women make up only 32% of managers and senior officials10. Equally, a study notes that apart from traditional humanist professions like nursing, teaching, catering and law, the percentage of women who venture into professions like engineering, architecture are low compared to men11. In the same light Umar & Karofi12 observed that female employment in the Nigerian civil service was historically tended to be lower than male. The trend or behavior of female labor participation has been assumed to be increasing at an increasing rate in many countries including Nigeria.

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