This study uses a sample survey methodology to investigate the factors underlying the employment decisions of female garment workers in Sri Lanka's Export Processing Zones (EPZs). It finds that most are pushed rather than pulled into EPZ employment by poverty and a weak labour market. Workers come from poorer than average households. Their remittances make a vital contribution to family welfare, and are often the sole source of regular household income. Generally low levels of job satisfaction and workers’ employment preferences indicate that most would prefer to be elsewhere, but their employment choices are constrained by a limited and unattractive range of alternative livelihoods. The impact of the changing global competitive environment on job quantity and quality in the EPZs is briefly discussed.