Shifting the Burden to Daughters: A Qualitative Examination of Population Policy, Labor Migration, and Filial Responsibility in Rural Bangladesh
Schoen, Roslyn Fraser
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This research examines the gendered consequences of the international low-fertility agenda, as it has been realized in an era of a globalized labor market, by documenting some of the ways that families in rural Bangladesh have shifted filial responsibilities between daughters and sons. Such shifts are occurring in a context of new demographic and economic realities that have been largely shaped by national policies and pressure from international organizations. Using qualitative interview data, this study examines how, in the context of declining family size, male labor migration, and increasing life expectancy, women and girls are expected to take on a larger share of filial responsibilities. While sons’ responsibilities narrow to include economic contributions through wage earning and remittances, expectations for daughters are expanding and may include earning a wage, as well as caring for both natal and marital relatives. This paper also seeks to problematize the conflation of fertility decline, poverty reduction, and women’s well-being by arguing that women’s empowerment is not a natural result of smaller families.