Changing Lives and New Challenges
Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi
Chapter 4: Putting Women on the Research Agenda: The 1980 Women and Employment Survey
1 Jean Martin and Ceridwen Roberts INTRODUCTION From a distance of over 25 years it is hard to remember how ‘revolutionary’ or ‘radical’ major programmes of social science enquiry into the life circumstances of women were in late 1970s Britain. The Women and Employment Survey (WES) which was conducted in 1980 and published in 1984 (Martin and Roberts 1984a; 1984b) holds a seminal role in social science research on women and contributed to informing practice and policy throughout the 1980s. Its several methodological innovations also made a major contribution to social science, particularly the development of event or life history data collection techniques and analysis. This chapter reviews the origins, scope and key ﬁndings of the study against the background of women’s changing roles and the legislative context of the late 1970s as well the development of the social science function in central government. WOMEN’S CHANGING ROLES AND LABOUR MARKET POSITION The 1970s were a period of considerable change for women, both in their economic and social roles and more particularly in the public recognition of this which major legislative change embodied. There was an explosion of interest in women’s situation explored by numerous academic studies and popular writings generated frequently from the growth of feminism and the emerging and very active women’s movement and pressure for equality from women in trade unions. At the same time rising divorce rates and growing numbers of lone-parent families, as much as women’s increased labour market participation and a concern to achieve equal...
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