Wetenschap - 20 juni 1996

China

China

In rural families in China it is the women who usually make agricultural decisions. This is not necessarily because they hold more power resources, but because their husbands have more rewarding non-agricultural occupations and leave farming matters to their wives. Decision making and access to sources of power for women depends not only on the cultural context but also on the type of farm and the division of labour in the household. Agricultural extension workers and rural planners in China still regard men, who are the heads of the family, as the managers of the farm. They should, however, distinguish and analyze the different types of farming household and draw up different extension plans accordingly.

These are the major findings of PhD research carried out by Huajie Chen under the supervision of Professor Anke Niehof, from the Department of Household and Consumer Studies. Huajie Chen will defend her thesis on Friday June 21.

Chen interviewed over 1000 farm households in Sichuan Province, Southwestern China, in order to gain a better insight in the role of women in on-farm decision making. Chen distinguishes five different types of farms based on who the decision maker is on a farm.

Agricultural work has a low status in China. Besides, the Chinese government's policy assigns to people either a rural or an urban registration. Persons in a farm household with an urban registration usually try to find a job in the city. In 35% of the farms it is men who have off farm employment and only in about 2 % of the farms is this the case for women. The research shows that on over 50% of the farms investigated, women are in charge of the farm and make the decisions.

Another important observation Chen makes is that the status of women is strongly related to the sex of their child(ren). Women with a son make more decisions in farm management. The one child policy of the Chinese government results in a weak power base for women who have only daughters.

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