23rd July 2021: Why the corner shop business is a preferred choice of livelihood for many Indonesian women 

Studies in several Asian and African countries indicate that women tend to invest in their business less than men. Research on small and medium enterprises in Indonesia also revealed that women owners usually keep their businesses small and informal as they prioritize domestic duties. These studies suggest that while women do participate in the workforce and own businesses, social norms still play a dominant role in influencing women’s career and business decisions. These social and cultural norms lead to constructed social categorizations that have positioned women and men with implied roles and responsibilities, where women are expected to remain in the domestic sphere as caregivers and men are in the public space as breadwinners.
We have interviewed eight women diarists to understand why they opted for corner shops as the preferred choice of livelihood. We found three primary reasons. 

First, corner shop is deemed more manageable than other types of businesses.

1. Sari stays at home while running a corner shop that sells grocery items. She believes that women are sharper in picking and managing grocery items stocks because they have a good understanding of a household’s daily needs.  

2. Yuyun went back to her village after an unsuccessful perfume venture. Following advice that a business will be more successful if located near familiar people, she opened a corner shop at her house. In that way, she can look after her son too.


Second, a corner shop is usually built adjacent to the main house, hence easier to manage while simultaneously performing household chores and caring for family members.

1. Mira used to work in a factory, which kept her busy all day. In 2014, she decided to open her corner shop. She thinks that it has helped her earn some money while staying at home to take care of her husband, her two children, and her aging mother.

2. Hening used to work in a farm field with her husband. But since having children, she stopped being a farmer because it was challenging to tend to a child while working. With permission from her husband, she finally decided to open a shop at their house.


Third, though the corner shop business is small in size, it is enough to serve the purpose for most women.

The corner shop is indeed not the sole source of income in the diarists’ household. They are largely farmers who have patches of land where they cultivate tobacco, cabbages, potatoes, and chilies. Besides, the women diarists are not considered the primary breadwinner in their families; their husbands are. In many cases, therefore, such corner shop businesses serve more as an additional source of income to support the family.

Data shows that the eight women diarists we interviewed had a relatively stable net revenue during the first three months of 2021. However, it dropped in April 2021. 

To conclude

It turns out that economic proposition is not the sole driver for a woman’s decision to choose a livelihood option. Social norms greatly influence the choice they made, especially as they live in a close-knit rural community. The small corner shop business is deemed sensible for women who want to work while looking after the family.

[*] All names have been changed.

Last Updated: August 10, 2021