New Barriers and Continuing Constraints
Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette
Introduction: What’s New About Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century?
Jacqueline Scott, Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette With the demise of the male breadwinner family, there has been something of a ‘paradigm shift’ in gender relations. But will this shift bring more or less equality? Major labour market changes, particularly in respect of women, together with dramatic changes in parenting and partnership, and greater recognition of gender equality issues in the policy arena, have served to break apart the traditional gender-role division. The expectation on the part of policy makers today is that women will be fully ‘individualised’ in the sense of economically autonomous, although policies are often ambiguous on this score. Social reality is more mixed; women are still disproportionately in part-time employment, and still do the bulk of unpaid care work. The post-war welfare state in Britain in the 1940s was established on the assumption that men went out to work and women stayed at home. Both the system of work and the system of benefits depended on this male breadwinner model (Williams 2004). However, the model came under pressure to change in the 1960s and 1970s, partly in response to equality issues that were voiced by activists of the Women’s Movement. It was also prompted by changing labour market opportunities and the recognition that most families required two wages to meet their housing needs and consumption aspirations. Certainly by the 1990s it was clear that the idealised picture of a male provider and female carer no longer captured the realities of people’s lives. However, shifts in gender...