Globalization and Gender Equality

The Gender Effects of Exporting: Female Factory Work and Siblings’ Education in Cambodia (Working Paper)

As a result of increased market access to the United States, Cambodia has witnessed a remarkable growth in its apparel exports, from 4 million in 1996 to close to 4 billion in 2013. Apparel is by far the most important export industry in Cambodia, accounting for more than 80 percent of its exports.

The expansion of the apparel industry resulted in a significant rise in job opportunities for women. Employment in export garment factories grew from 19,000 workers in 1996 to close to half a million in 2013 , according to the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia.  More than 80 percent of workers are young women who migrate from rural areas to Phnom Penh, where the garment export cluster is located. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that a large share of factory wages earned by women go towards supporting siblings' education. Using individual survey data I showed that the female siblings of female garment workers who were induced to work in garment exporting sector by their proximity to the exports factories are one standard deviation more likely to attend school relative to their male siblings. The results are consistent with two channels, which are challenging to disentangle in the current setting. By increasing female-specific income garment jobs may increase older daughter’s bargaining power within the household. If older female siblings have a higher preference for investing in their sisters relative to their brothers, then this would lead to an increase the investment in education for girls. The second channel is that a member working in a job in an export factory raises total household income and this should increase investments in education for girls, if girls education is a 'luxury' good relative to boys’ education. 

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