Gender Inequalities in Production and Reproduction
Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Anke C. Plagnol
Chapter 8: Gender Equality and Work–Family Balance in a Cross-national Perspective
8. Gender equality and work–family balance in a cross-national perspective1 Jane Lewis The development of modern social policies can be seen as attempts to address certain kinds of risk collectively: typically those of unemployment, ill health and old age. These arrangements were elaborated in the first half of the twentieth century, but by the end of the century the nature of social risks was looking rather different. Labour markets had changed, becoming more ‘flexible’, with much less expectation of a ‘job for life’. Families had changed, both in form, becoming much more ‘fluid’, and at the household level in terms of the kinds of contributions made by men and, more especially, women. Families have become increasingly dependent on two earners, with women increasing their employment rate and hours of work dramatically, while men have continued to work full-time and often long hours (particularly fathers), and have failed substantially to increase the time they devote to childcare and housework. Welfare systems were built on the assumption of stable families in which men would take primary responsibility for earning and women for the unpaid work of care, and on a commitment to full employment, but are now faced with a new landscape of social risks (Brush 2002). Family and labour market changes have been accompanied by wider changes in social provision. Since the 1990s, welfare state change in Western Europe has been driven largely by the aim of promoting employment as a means of ensuring competitiveness and growth (CEC 2000). In...
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