Gender Roles in Economics

Women's household chores include a number of daily tasks: caring for children, preparing meals, serving tea to guests, cleaning the house, washing clothes, and arranging the daily bedding. Many women also bake their own bread, prepare a variety of dairy products, and sew clothes for their family. Meanwhile, the men help with domestic work by buying groceries and helping with childcare. In rural areas, where there is more household work, women also milk the cows and horses and work in the household garden, and men also care for livestock and help with the garden work. Compared with men, Kazakh women have very little leisure time at home. In order to complete their household chores, many women rely on the help of their children and their daughters-in-law. For children, the boundaries between "female" and "male" household chores are much more flexible. With the exception of food preparation and clothes washing, boys are known to help out with household chores, especially in households that have a shortage of female labor. However, the expectations for boys' help are lower than those for girls' help (Werner, in press a).

Women also work hard to maintain household networks by serving guests, helping others serve guests, and preparing gifts for various occasions. With hospitality as one of the central elements of Kazakh culture, households frequently host dinner parties to socialize with friends and they occasionally sponsor large feasts to celebrate new marriages and male circumcision. These events are enjoyed by women, yet they also burden women with additional responsibilities. Gift exchange is another aspect of women's role in household networking. Different occasions call for different gifts, and women are responsible for selecting and presenting most gifts on behalf of their household (Werner, 1998b, in press a).

In traditional Kazakh society, craft specializations were strictly divided by gender. Women sewed clothing, wove rugs, and made wool and other textiles. Men made ceramic objects, leather objects, and boots (Bacon, 1966).

In modern Kazakh society, there are also gendered patterns for occupational specializations. On the one hand, both men and women work as doctors, teachers, economists, and agricultural workers. On the other hand, women dominate certain occupations, such as day-care workers, shopkeepers, secretaries, nurses, and janitors. In urban centers, women are more likely to be employed as translators and administrative assistants for foreign businesses. There are a few positions that are rarely, if ever, filled by women: policemen, firemen, and military recruits. In addition, the chief positions in any business or government office are usually held by men (Bauer et al., 1997).

Both men and women sell goods in local marketplaces. In the post-Soviet period, as unemployment increases and the availability of consumer goods increases, the number of market vendors has increased dramatically (Bauer et al., 1997). Women dominate the sale of cloth, clothing, and food products, while men are exclusively involved with the sale of livestock although they can also be found selling clothes and food products. Gender stereotypes suggest that women are better at market trade because they have the patience to sit in the bazaar, the skills to persuade others verbally, and the ability to resist friends and relatives who request cash loans. While many merchants buy and sell goods close to home, some merchants travel to distant marketplaces, sometimes in foreign countries, to buy and sell their wares. In some cases, male and female merchants live apart from their families for weeks or months (Werner, in press a).

According to the laws of Kazakhstan, both men and women can buy, sell, and own property, including livestock. In practice, property is more likely to be in the husband's name.

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