| Daughters of Sysiphus |
|Overview of findings and recommendations|
The survey found that female heads of household were more likely than joint heads of household to have completed secondary school, and were the least likely group to have had primary school education only. In this respect they tended to show higher educational achievement that the joint heads. However they also proved to be the least likely group to have finished high school (the most prestigious form of secondary education) and were therefore less likely than other groups to have had access to skilled and professional jobs within the formal sector.
Material gathered by means of the case studies suggests that fertility has a serious impact on women's achievements after school, and that economic pressures within their households often are the cause of interruptions in and pressures on the schooling to which they do manage to gain access. Many of the women who served as case studies had dropped out of the education system because of economic pressures on the household's they belonged to as teenagers, and their efforts to achieve adult training and job experience had often been severely impaired by their child- bearing and child-minding roles. The fact that many of these women had also become pregnant because of their dependency for shelter on male partners complicates the picture further. However, the survey did not produce any definitive data with respect to these questions, so interpretations remain hunches rather than theories at this time and further work remains to be done.
In terms of occupational status, female heads of household proved more likely than other heads to be dependent on income generated in the informal sector. Given the prevailing employment patterns (women's unemployment rate is approximately twice that of men in all age groups), this finding is hardly suprising. However income generation within the informal sector is not necessarily a worse option than employment in the formal economy. While income flows in the informal economy may be erratic and unpredictable, the actual levels of income available to a household may be relatively high when compared with the minimum rate of pay available within the formal sector which is currently less than $J 100 a week ($J5.50 = $US1.00)
The main disadvantage of informal income generation is that the household is usually unable to have access to credit, including credit for shelter development, from the formal sector on the basis of their earnings. The credit unions are unusual among financial institutions in that they will accept items such as televisions and furniture as collateral for shelter-related loans, an acceptance that is of great benefit to earners dependent on the informal sector.
Another aspect of informal income generation, which is of particular interest as far as shelter interventions are concerned, arises from the fact that informal income generation is often home-based in some way. Dwellings and yards are used to store goods, shelter animals, park transport, provide services like hairdressing and dressmaking and so on. In this sense, secure access to shelter can have an immediate impact on secure access to income. Given the prevalence of women within the informal sector, policy-level recognition of shelter as a production as well as consumption factor within the economy is, therefore, one means of being "gender-sensitive". Serious attention to the amount of space within a dwelling and/or the yard around it is also required from project planners if income-generating activities connected with the home are to be taken into consideration.
The study found that female heads of household had a much larger dependency burden than other heads of household in the sense that within their households more dependents had to be supported by fewer earners. This is scarcely suprising given the fact that many female heads of household are single parents. However, it is not a finding that should be trivialized because the form of female-headed household associated with many of the developed western countries, namely a household where there is a single female adult with one or more children, is not necessarily reflected in the Jamaican female-headed household. The Jamaican household is often an extended household accomodating more than two generations and a range of related members.
1. Options to extend credit to households that have no formally demonstrable income should be urgently explored in cases where credit is required. Some credit may be required for direct expenditure on shelter. In other cases credit may be more desirable for income-generating activities that will improve the ability of the household to upgrade its shelter status over time.
2. Informal-sector incomes are not necessarily regular or constant. Interventions based on saving and/or loan assistance should allow for flexibility in the manner that payments are made in order to ensure that payment ability coincides with earning cycles. This is particularly so with seasonal earnings. Study of the savings and loan systems operating within the informal sector itself can provide important information for the formal sector planner who wishes to design an appropriate and effective system.