Is oil repressing women’s rights?

According to a UCLA academic there might be an inverse link between oil production and women’s rights:

He argues that women’s participation in the formal labor force is a driving force in the development of women’s rights and participation. Oil production tends to crowd out local manufacturing, and so oil crowds out job opportunities for women. That is, the discovery of oil in a less developed country, he argues, sideswipes the development of women’s rights. The discovery of oil might even set back previous gains.

If this is true, what will this mean for women in Southland and Taranaki? Back to baking scones, ladies?

It’s a shame Prof Ross’ solution to the problem of oppressing womens’ rights in oil-rich states is to build sweatshop factories.

Seems like yet another good reason, alongside climate change, to just leave the oil where it is.

Hat tip – Freakonomics

14 Comments Posted

  1. Norway is the largest per capita exploiter of oil in Western Europe. Norway is consistently ranked as 1 or 2 in the world for the advancement of women. The Greens newly expressed desire to make sure this never occurs here is aimed at capturing the all important “D4J” vote in the coming election. 😉

  2. I’ve only skimmed this paper, but it seems pretty silly. Partially because of the indicators used for women’s rights and participation (using parliamentary and ministerial positions held by women as a measurement of rights and participation which means you’re basically studying the position of women members of an elite), but also because the results are hugely skewed by the small group nations with the highest oil production per capita – namely the Wahabi-influenced Gulf states which combine high oil production, low population and a conservative Islamic culture of a particular type.

    Ross points out that countries with significant other influences (soviet rule, left of centre ruling parties, etc.) don’t fit the model, which makes the whole argument pretty weak.

    When you get away from this group the situation is much less clear – for example high-oil producing Iran has considerably better stats for female representation and workforce participation than low-producing Egypt. Likewise Iranian women are in a better position (or somewhat less awful position, to be more accurate) than their neighbours in non-oily Pakistan. Oil-producing Norway is hardly low on the list of countries with a low rate of women’s social participation either.

  3. Back to baking scones, ladies?

    an inapt comment since the reason local manufacturing favours women’s participation in the work force is that it keeps them close to home so they can fulfil their domestic duties

  4. The professors article is an attempt to shift blame from governance by Islamic conservatives to the oil industry.

  5. So the Green party think that Taranaki and Southland are less developed countries/regions :),
    Don’t let Mayor Tim hear about this

  6. “Back to baking scones, ladies?” At least baking a decent is an honourable and worthy profession. What’s the alternative…sharemilking? 😉

  7. BB

    If you read the link, the good Prof. is talking about the effect in an underdeveloped country. Frog is doing a bit of a wind-up.


  8. along with food production, transport, soap, candles, plastics, pakaging, and most of modern societies production.

    heres some into on people looking at what a post oil society may look like:

    this ones quite old too

    and for the scary bit from the pollution side of all the excessive consumption and short term throwaway society…

    The world’s rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan

    Related Articles

    * Steve Connor: Why plastic is the scourge of sea life
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    What are these?

    By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, and Daniel Howden
    Tuesday, 5 February 2008

    A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

    The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

    Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: “The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.”

    Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: “It moves around like a big animal without a leash.” When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. “The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic,” he added.

    The “soup” is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About one-fifth of the junk – which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags – is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.

    Mr Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the “North Pacific gyre” – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.

    He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. “Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by,” he said in an interview. “How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?”

    Mr Moore, the heir to a family fortune from the oil industry, subsequently sold his business interests and became an environmental activist. He warned yesterday that unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.

    Professor David Karl, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, said more research was needed to establish the size and nature of the plastic soup but that there was “no reason to doubt” Algalita’s findings.

    “After all, the plastic trash is going somewhere and it is about time we get a full accounting of the distribution of plastic in the marine ecosystem and especially its fate and impact on marine ecosystems.”

    Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita in search of the garbage patch later this year and believes the expanse of junk actually represents a new habitat. Historically, rubbish that ends up in oceanic gyres has biodegraded. But modern plastics are so durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north Pacific dump. “Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere,” said Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.

    Mr Moore said that because the sea of rubbish is translucent and lies just below the water’s surface, it is not detectable in satellite photographs. “You only see it from the bows of ships,” he said.

    According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.

    Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic,

    Dr Eriksen said the slowly rotating mass of rubbish-laden water poses a risk to human health, too. Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic pellets, or nurdles – the raw materials for the plastic industry – are lost or spilled every year, working their way into the sea. These pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain. “What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It’s that simple,” said Dr Eriksen.

  9. Oil is also used in the manufacture of hydraulic fluids, used in everything from car jacks through power steering systems to heavy machinery.

    I’m not saying that we should rush to pump it all out, just that it isn’t all bad.


  10. two examples of leading females are Vandana Shiva and Wangari Maathai, or India and Kenya. Who have done much, Wangari being involved with and leading a massive greenbelt movement in Kenya.

    Personally i’d imagine cutting down forests, heavy mining and oil extraction isn’t in favour more so to woman. It is the poor and woman most vulnerable to climate change and war.

    Nigeria along with iraq and afghanistan are examples of where oil has had a heavy toll.

    It is often called a curse there.
    here is some reading:

    Curse of the Black Gold, national geographic
    The Niger Delta holds some of the world’s richest oil deposits, yet Nigerians living there are poorer than ever, violence is rampant, and the land and water are fouled. What went wrong?….

    The Curse of Oil
    John Ghazvinian

    Be interesting to see what education is like and effect of oil on woman in South America, particually Venezuela and elsewhere. has information on issues and development affecting tribal peoples, sometimes it had things on Chevron going into Tribal Lands.

    In New Zealand there could be a massive boost in healthy food production, localised food, community gardening and so on. I’m sure a lot of oil countries could do with efforts to clean up oil spills and pollution and increase forest cover. Lebannon once used to have giant ceder forests.. Iraq could to with more forest.

    The other side of oil besides pollution and effects on local industry and woman is resource conflicts. Im sure that has been covered a lot on this blog and is widely covered on the internet. There is an anti war march on the 15th this month.

    From GPJA in Auckland (sorry not sure of details in other parts of NZ):
    Saturday 15th March – GPJA Peace March on anniversary of invasion of Iraq.Gather Aotea Square 12noon for march to US Consulate. This protest will alsohighlight the Israeli invasion of Gaza and brutality towards Palestinians by theIsraeli armed forces. Bring banners and placards!

  11. Waste it by say, using it all at once without preparing for a switch-over to cleaner fuels? 😉

    You might think machines would give women an advantage, but apparently you’d be wrong. Men tend to have higher distribution (ie. there are more exceptionally good men) at spacial awareness and rotational awareness necessary to operate heavy machinery. So while machine-operating allows women into jobs that have traditionally been barred to them because they require extremely heavy labour, it still requires a woman who has trained in skills where there will be more men with a noticeable advantage. In other words… women are only marginally better off operating heavy machinery.

    Placing more value on service and manufacturing industries would tend to be the quickest way to get women into jobs in a country where they are traditionally unemployed, as both of these have high portability from women’s roles in unemployed life.

    Of course, no one thing is gonna be a smoking bullet. Personally, I think an oil-focused economy in any local area will repress women’s rights assuming they stay in that area. For poor countries, that’s the same thing, but for countries like the USA, it shouldn’t be an insurmountable issue.

  12. One of the main factors empowering women is the development of powered machinery that doesn’t require a man’s strength. This has allowed women to do the same jobs as men. Much of this machinery is currently powered by oil and also lubricated by oil.

    We will need all the oil we can get. The important thing is not to waste it.


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