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 12: Women and Work in the UK: The Need for a Modernisation of Labour Market Institutions

Jill Rubery


Jill Rubery In 1994 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 1994) made the argument that a new gender contract and a new set of labour market arrangements were needed to fit with changing patterns of women’s employment and household formation. That argument added a new dimension to the gender equality debate: promoting gender equality was to be regarded as not only an issue of social justice but also a means of modernising the economy and welfare systems (Humphries and Rubery 1995; Rubery et al. 2003a; 2003b). This approach has been developed through the commitment to gender mainstreaming of public policy made at the Beijing World Conference on women. Gender mainstreaming is a tool that can be used to determine whether current institutional arrangements are fit for purpose, once the interests of women as well as men are taken into account (Council of Europe 1998; Rees 1998). The argument presented in this chapter is that labour market institutions in the UK need to be modernised and upgraded to match the changing aspirations of women, to promote a more productive economy and to reduce risks of poverty and social exclusion. Such a modernisation process obviously involves costs for individuals or groups, as is the case with any process of change. It must be remembered that maintaining the status quo also implies costs, not just for individual women concerned but also for the economy. These costs include both those of underutilised potential, if women are unable to work at their full...

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