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The economics of social subordination : gender relations and market failure in the highlands of Papua New Guinea

By Duncan Overfield


This thesis is concerned with the causes and consequences\ud of the market failure that is generated by the social\ud subordination of women in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea\ud (PNG). It is argued that the development impasse in PNG,\ud noted by a number of observers, has its principle antecedents in the extreme economic and social discrimination facing women.\ud \ud Gender based discrimination occurs within the context of\ud dualistic modes of social relations of production: (1) the\ud pre- incorporation social order, which was patriarchal; (2)\ud capitalist market exchange relations which followed the\ud widespread introduction of cash cropping. These two modes\ud combine to alter the price signals determined by the world\ud market, and domestic pricing policy, at an intrahousehold\ud level. That is individual incentives are not determined by\ud world markets but by household power structures, in\ud particular the pervasive nature of patriarchy; this\ud provides the basis for gendered market failure in the\ud Highlands of PNG.\ud \ud Market failure in the Highlands takes the form of the\ud underallocation of labour and land to coffee production.\ud This is a direct result of the poor labour returns that\ud women receive; they receive around one-third of those of\ud men. Women's returns are so low that their labour returns\ud are higher in food production and they act as rational\ud economic beings and apply more of their labour to this\ud endeavour. Whilst behaving in a rational manner to the\ud incentives they face, this must necessarily reduce\ud household income levels because labour returns from food\ud production are much lower than those associated with cof fee\ud cultivation. Patriarchy creates an uneven pattern of\ud intrahousehold distribution of coffee income, which\ud generates perverse (non-efficient) individual incentives\ud which lead to market failure. Additionally, the\ud intrahousehold distribution of tasks is so uneven that many\ud households face a 'female' labour constraint, particularly\ud during the peak coffee harvesting period (flush). This\ud reduces the ability of the household to respond to changing\ud incentives, such as increased coffee prices. Poor economic\ud incentives for women and socially determined labour\ud constraints combine to create a vicious gendered circle of\ud underdevelopment in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Publisher: School of Geography (Leeds)
Year: 1995
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:808

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