(2002) 'Social Exclusion of Pakistani and Bangladeshi
Sociological Research Online, vol. 7, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/7/3/dale.html>
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Received: 30/9/2002 Accepted: 30/9/2002 Published: 22/10/2002
We find evidence of change across generations. By contrast with their mothers' generation, younger women who had been educated in the UK saw paid work as a means to independence and self- esteem. Women with higher level qualifications often showed considerable determination in managing to combine paid work and child-care. Whilst most women subscribed strongly to the centrality of the family, it is clear that the majority will follow very different routes through the life-course from their mothers. However, even with higher level qualifications, women are facing considerable barriers to employment. If the expected increase in economic activity amongst Pakistani and Bangladeshi women is not to lead to even higher unemployment, there is a pressing need to ensure that potential employers do not hold negative and out-dated stereotypes of traditional Muslim women.
'Education will never make you immoral. Education makes you strong and it will teach you good and bad. Without education you've got nothing.'
'So if you work hard and get well educated and help yourself then you'll have your parents' blessings as well as Allah's blessings' (Pakistani woman, 46, 7 children, most university-educated in professional jobs)
'Because then girls get freedom ... I am not against education but freedom, then girls get influenced' (Pakistani woman, 4 children; born in Pakistan, been in England for 20 years).
'My father's comment was - why do you need to work when I can give you the money' (Pakistani woman, 31, married, 3 children)?
'But in our Islam, working outside the home for women is not allowed; as much as they can stay in the home, it's better for them' (Pakistani woman, 35, 5 children).
'...like I said I didn't go to school much and I got married at a young age and to me I think I'm not really good for any job, that's what I think' (Bangladeshi woman, 30, married, 3 children, no qualifications).
'I have talked to my future husband about this and he says that this is alright and that he won't mind if I have a job as long as I don't neglect him and the duties of being a wife ......... after I get married I will be moving into the family house and I will have to look after their needs, I think it is going to be tough at first, you have to learn how to live again and accustom yourself to this new house and these new people.... I hope it isn't going to be too bad' (Bangladeshi woman, 21, engaged, working full-time).
'I'm not attached to the tradition; I'm concerned with my religion which is a totally different thing' (Pakistani woman, 27, law graduate, married, one child).
'Well, I would want to work but I don't think I, I wouldn't work full-time, I would like to go on a part-time basis or if I did work full-time I would have to work round the hours my husband worked. I don't think that would be possible though I think, it would have to be more of a part-time role for myself, but we have even discussed my husband going part-time and me staying full-time, which doesn't sound right from a cultural point of view' (Pakistani woman, 23, married, no children, degree, currently working full-time).
'I think I would like to give my children the best as well and with that comes financial security and I think as well as my husband earning I would like to do part-time work, therefore my children will get the best, so yes I will work but I won't work to the same degree as now' (Pakistani pharmacist, 26, married, no children).
'I have been to interviews and you can tell as soon as you walk in that they don't really want you. There was this one interview I went to and it was a mostly white firm, in the interview they were really targeting some funny questions at me, like would you be able to work evenings being a Muslim, or do you know there are a lot of men working here so would your family mind and do you wear a scarf at all. In the end I didn't get the job, but I felt uneasy about some of the questions they were asking, I thought they were completely inappropriate' (Pakistani woman, 19, full-time sales assistant).
'... when you're at an interview, or even on your application form, it comes across that you're not going to have that British accent and British culture and you're not going to be able to socialise in the way that they want you to socialise. A lot of these high street legal firms, they very much have in mind the kind of person they want to employ. You've got to completely fit in and I think there's a lack of understanding of cultures, I don't think they think you're going to fit in very well as an Asian female' (Pakistani woman, 27, with law degree).
'I was getting myself ill over it and it got to the stage were I felt I should resign, my husband said just leave your job, but I was adamant and I said why should I leave because of a person, I'll leave because I want to leave, nobody is going to kick me out of a job for no reason, I don't want to be frightened by him because I will be like that everywhere then, I have got to fight' (Pakistani woman, 26, pharmacist, married)
'When I finally did get a job, like this one, Asian Women's Rights Worker, it's usually jobs that are catered specifically for Asian people. It's very difficult to get a job that's catered for everyone, mainstream jobs. I mean, I've had a go at that. My qualifications are probably not less than anyone else and also my experience, I've had a hell of a lot of voluntary work experience, working for firms here and there, but I think it is a problem' (Pakistani woman, 27, law graduate).
'... I am not the sort of person who is proud to claim benefit, I used to hate going signing on, it was such a nightmare, because the benefits woman always used to grill me about not having found a job and she would make me feel so inadequate... I don't agree with people who claim benefit to make a living... There is no respect in that at all... you should work for your money and not sponge off the state, it's wrong to do that... plenty of people do... But I wouldn't feel proud of that, my family have always ingrained in me the fact that you should work hard and be a credit to your family... so they can tell others about you... My daughter works for a doctor or my son works in computers, what respect are you going to get by saying, my daughter signs on? None at all! (Bangladeshi, 21, working full-time as a Doctor's receptionist)
2ILO unemployment is defined as not having a job, actively seeking work and being able to start within two week.
3In May 2001 there were three days of rioting in Oldham, followed by similar disturbances in Burnley in June and Bradford in July. In the weeks leading up to the Oldham Riot the National Front (NF) had been trying to capitalise on an attack on an old white pensioner which the local police had described as a 'racial attack' despite the victim and his family saying this was not true.
4We could, in theory, have addressed this using an inter-action effect between qualifications and children. This would have shown whether the negative effect of young children was the same for all levels of qualification. However, there were insufficient numbers of women with higher qualifications to allow this.
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