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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

The Subtle Distinction Between the Different Mayan Groups: Gender Gaps in Non-Agricultural Employment under the Focus of Interethnic Dlfferences in Rural Guatemala

Julia Johannsen, Manfred Zeller

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Institute of Rural Development, Germany


The literature has revealed that among the many positive functions of non-agricultural employment, there can be named the smoothing of income variations, income increases, an improved capacity to cope with risk and income shocks as well as the financing of investments in different types of assets. Especially for women the non-agricultural sector provides important employment opportunities. But for the first time in Guatemala, this analysis based on farm household theory takes interethnic differences within the gender aspects of employment into account.
Using the data of the national ENEI survey of 2002, the descriptive and econometric results reveal significant interethnic and gender differences in the rural labour markets which have shown to play a central role in the following assessment of the diverse functions of non-agricultural employment. Nearly 70% of the rural women primarily work outside agriculture. In fact, the probit model showed the sex of a person to be the strongest single determinant of non-agricultural employment. Women’s participation in non-agricultural activities ranged from 22% to 62% according to the different ethnic groups. The observed interethnic differences raised the question on a possible cultural influence of non-agricultural activities of certain ethnic groups.
In order to assess the specific functions of non-agricultural work at the household level, several case studies have been conducted among the Q’eqchi’ and K’iche’ population of Alta Verapaz and Totonicap├ín. The results indicate that the rather handicraft-based, low-productivity activities of the investigated Q’eqchi’ households fulfil important functions concerning the reduction of diverse risks (related to harvest failures and price fluctuations of export products), the employment generation for women and the equalising effects on the intra-household distribution of income. In contrast, for the investigated K’iche’ households the poverty-reducing effect is given by the substantial alternative income generation rather than by secondary effects related to the intra-household distribution or risk reduction. Finally, possible ethnic-cultural influence on the economic activities at the household level is discussed on the background of possible external factors including infrastructure and the structure of labour markets which might cause the necessity of income diversification. They seem to be important additional determinants of interethnic employment differences.

Keywords: Gender, Guatemala, interethnic differences, non-agricultural employment, rural development

Contact Address: Julia Johannsen, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Institute of Rural Development, Waldweg 26, Göttingen, Germany, e-mail: jjohann@gwdg.de

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