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Employment and mobility among low-income urban households in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Nicola Banks


Economic opportunities accessible to a household are not dictated solely by household circumstances, but are greatly shaped by the structural environment in which they are situated. Social, economic, political and geographic aspects of the labour market offer both constraints to accessing alternative opportunities or to improving terms of employment. While asset-based approaches to urban poverty remain valid – with household strategies of labour mobilisation, asset ownership and finances differentiating between all coping and improving households – solely focusing on household agency risks overestimating the room for manoeuvre households have in accessing better forms or terms of employment. Households operate within an opportunity structure that governs the distribution of opportunities, and, with opportunities distributed along narrow lines of kinship and political affiliation rather than skills and education, this is structured in a way that perpetuates a relatively small elite circle. The structural nature of labour market acts as a major constraint on the low-income urban households in Dhaka. While at the household-level, therefore, there remains scope for households to improve their situation through agency-related paths, these agency-related facilitators are not accessible enough – nor, perhaps, sustainable enough – to facilitate mobility at a larger scale.


Publication Type(s)

Conference Paper

Ten Years of War Against Poverty Conference Papers

Conference: Ten Years of War Against Poverty


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