Methods: A systematic review was conducted across ten databases. Studies were included if they were quantitative in nature, focused strictly on economic measures, and were published in English and in peer-reviewed journals after the year 2000. The author conducted the title and abstract screening as well as reviewed the full articles.
Results: 14 studies met the inclusion and exclusion criteria and were included in the review. Economic empowerment in the studies was measured through financial decision-making power, autonomy, negotiating power and agency. Of the studies included, five discussed association with microfinance, four discussed association with Self-Help Groups (SHGs), two discussed land ownership, two discussed paid employment and one discussed micro-entrepreneurship as agents of economic empowerment. A positive correlation was found between economic empowerment of rural women and association with SHGs, land ownership, paid employment and micro-entrepreneurship. Association to microfinance showed conflicting results.
Conclusion and Implications: The review showed the fallacy of using only FLFPR to assess economic empowerment of women in rural settings of South Asia. The review showed the concept of economic empowerment for rural women in South Asia is multi-faceted in nature and that different outcomes can be used to measure the same construct. Social work practitioners should consider using the composite economic empowerment scale consisting of paid employment, asset ownership, association to SHG, entrepreneurship and association to microfinance to better assess the economic empowerment of rural women in South Asia. Future research should focus on finer distinctions that define economic empowerment for women in South Asia such as the level of income, access to and control over assets registered in women’s name and level of participation at SHGs and microfinance to refine the economic empowerment measurement scale.