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Gender Divisions and Working Time in the New Economy

Changing Patterns of Work, Care and Public Policy in Europe and North America

Edited by Diane Perrons, Colette Fagan, Linda McDowell, Kath Ray and Kevin Ward

Contemporary societies are characterised by new and more flexible working patterns, new family structures and widening social divisions. This book explores how these macro-level changes affect the micro organisation of daily life, with reference to working patterns and gender divisions in Northern and Western Europe and the United States.
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Chapter 7: Class, Gender and Work–Life Articulation

Rosemary Crompton and Michaela Brockmann


Rosemary Crompton and Michaela Brockmann INTRODUCTION The ‘mid 20th century social compromise’, as described by Crouch (1999), appeared to have ameliorated endemic conflicts within advanced capitalist societies via measures such as the recognition of citizenship rights in welfare state arrangements, the regulation of employer–employee conflicts via developed systems of industrial relations, and economic stabilization via the application of broadly Keynesian policies.1 However this model was underpinned by extensive gender segregation in both the public and private spheres of work. Men in full-time employment received a ‘family wage’ and related benefits; women gained benefits, often indirectly, as wives and mothers. Thus the relative ‘decommodification’ of the male employee was achieved in part as a consequence of the allocation of unpaid caring and domestic labour to women (Lewis, 1992). This division of labour between the sexes may not have been ‘fair’, but it served to ensure social reproduction (Folbre, 1994). A wide range of both external and internal factors have contributed to the destabilization of this ‘compromise’. One major internal factor has been the growth of women’s claims to equality, particularly in the sphere of employment, as women have increasingly entered the labour force. This has brought with it more pressures on households and families, as the necessity for caring work is no longer resolved by the domestication of women. Not surprisingly therefore, the question of work–life ‘balance’ has emerged as an important issue at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and there has been an increasing focus on the...

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