Norway: Low employment among Pakistani women

Barely 30% of Pakistani women who have been living in Norway for a long time have a job. The numbers for immigrant women from other countries are twice as high.

"I will go back to work when my sons are big enough, maybe three years. That depends if I have more children," says Nahid Kaosar (34) who have been outside the job market for 5 years.

Her husband holds two jobs in order to care for the little family. Kaosar says she knows many Pakistani women who prefer to be home with their kids the whole time.

"Nobody likes to have them in kindergarten, they believe they don't take good care of them. But I want to send my kids there," she says.

A new reports brings employment rates among immigrants who came to Norway before 1990, groups which are seen as established.

"The situation for Pakistani women is special. Employment among almost all immigrant groups increases the longer they live in Norway. But among Pakistani women they stop at a low level," says Hanne Kavli of Fafo.

Women who immigrated from India, China, the Philippines and Thailand have a job in over 60% of the cases, says the report, prepared by Statistics Norway.

"Some of the reason for the difference can be that many Thai and Filipino women marry Norwegian men. Then it is easier for them to integrate into society, learn the language and get a job," says Kavli.

While 56% of Pakistani men have a job, barely 30% of Pakistani women do.

Kavli says she had interviewed Pakistani family and the general characteristic is that according to the gender roles it is the women's job to take care of the children at home.

Lars Østby of Statistics Norway thinks children can explain the low employment percent.

"Half of all Pakistani women in Norway have four or more children. Since the mothers are home while the children grow up, they stay outside the job market for several decades. Then it is hard to come back in again," he says. Additionally the group has a relatively bad knowledge of Norwegian and a low level of education. Another factor is discrimination in the marketplace.

"With women from Morocco and Turkey there is low employment, but not as low as with the Pakistanis," says Østby.

Women from immigrant groups which are relatively new in Norway, likes the Somalis, also have very low employment rates. "But with Somali women we see that the longer they live in Norway, there is a higher chance that they get a job. They are also eagerly looking for work," says Østby.

The situation is different for Pakistani girls in Norway. "They mostly get a higher degree of education. Even if employment by this group is somewhat lower than the average there is reason to believe that we will get more Norwegian-Pakistani women at work in the future." says Kavli.

Social-anthropologist Inger-Lise Lien has researched Pakistanis both in Pakistan and in Norway for close to 20 years.

"Outside work the women don't get experience with being outside in society. They don't learn the codes and values that hold for interaction with Norwegians and keep themselves to their own community. The women communicate the most with other Pakistanis and live more like they did before they fled her," she says and adds that the position of these women in the family remains traditional.

"Moreover, they aren't motivated to orient themselves to what goes on here, and what people in this land do becomes less important." If they take part in the job market, they also take part in society. Then the women get to meet women from Norway and other countries. Lien thinks that work is one of the most important integrating factors.

She points out that taking part in the job market increases women's independence and power, since they get security, pension and rights. "When the women are outside the job market, men's dominance is maintained," she says.

Lien thinks that the low employment percentages show that the values immigrants bring from home are critical for the degree of integration, also in the long term.

She explains that the time dimension doesn't promote integration as was expected since the cultural factors work against it. Lien also believes that Pakistani mothers' role as educator is weakened by them being outside the job market.

"At the same time new generations are coming in all the time through marriage." That many Norwegian-Pakistanis marry somebody who is raised in Pakistan can work to preserve the traditions.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

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