Women and Employment
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Women and Employment

Changing Lives and New Challenges

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi

How is women’s employment shaped by family and domestic responsibilities? This book, written by leading experts in the field, examines twenty-five years of change in women’s employment and addresses the challenges facing women today.
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Chapter 1: Achieving Equality in the Knowledge Economy

Kate Purcell and Peter Elias


Kate Purcell and Peter Elias INTRODUCTION In an earlier attempt to assess and further predict progress towards equality at the end of the 1980s (Elias and Purcell 1988), we were influenced by the social implications of the economic trends prevailing in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Two features of the UK economy stood out in this period: industrial restructuring and the strong growth in part-time working associated with the shift from manufacturing to services, and an increase in women’s economic activity over the life cycle. We understood that the labour market map was being redrawn, skills required by employers changing, and the construction of jobs evolving to take account of industrial, commercial and technological changes as well as change in the labour supply. However, we underestimated the impact that the changing occupational structure of the economy would have on opportunities for both men and women to participate in employment. Crucially, we did not foresee the expansion of higher education that would be stimulated by successive UK government policies that, in line with international trends, have been predicated upon the belief that in the twenty-first century, successful economies will rely more upon knowledge than material resources to maintain competitiveness in the ‘knowledge-intensive’ global economy (DfEE 1998; European Commission 2004; Leadbetter 1999; OECD 1996). One of the biggest differences between the generation surveyed in 1980 for the Women and Employment Survey (WES) and that represented by later cohort studies is the relative ratios of men and women entering...

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