Paid Employment In The Home Essay

3738 words - 15 pages

Paid Employment in the Home

In her book The Second Shift, Arlie Hochschild describes how two-job married couples in the United States deal with the structural problem of the domestic work shift, i.e., that when both members of a marriage work outside of the home, the domestic work becomes an added burden to one or both of the members in addition to their outside jobs. Modern society has increased the work load of the family, thereby increasing tension in marriages and taking away time for leisure and recreation for both spouses. Hochschild calls this a "stalled revolution" (12) because women's entrance into the full-time workforce has yet to bring about the necessary structural change in American family life. Assuming that this state of "stalled revolution" is temporary and that the problems associated with it will demand a change, it is interesting to explore possibilities for future structural changes in the realm of work and family interaction. This paper will focus on one such possibility, paid employment in the home, summarizing some of the current sociological research on this topic and drawing conclusions as to the feasibility and desirability of home work for some or all of the future workforce.

Although, historically speaking, work at home is not a new phenomenon, the beginnings of what can be seen as a movement of paid employment from the office back into the home began in the last decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1985 some eighteen million Americans worked at home, either full- time or as a supplement to their day jobs. But by 1988, according to the National Work-At-Home Survey conducted by New York's LINK Resources, the number of home workers had jumped to about twenty-five million Americans, a 40 percent increase in only three years (Bergheim 1990). The definition of a home worker in these statistics is very general, as will be explored further below, and therefore many researchers would argue that 25 million home workers is a very high number. However, the 40 percent increase conveys the drastic growth of the home work population, which seems to be generalizable to smaller sub-groups of the home work population as defined below. Because this movement back into the home is relatively new and because of its current relatively small size, it is difficult for social scientists to get large enough samples to make judgments about the characteristics of home work (Kraut 1989). Home work is seen in the current literature in both highly optimistic and strongly negative terms, and the size of the work at home population has been described as "less than 2 percent of the U.S. labor force" (Shamir 1992, p. 280) and "nearly one quarter of the labor force" (Farmanfarmaian 1989, p. 37). These contradictions are due to both the size of this group of workers, as mentioned earlier, and a lack of agreement between researchers on a definition of the home worker (for example, how many hours of work at home per week,...

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