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Women's Labour Force In Europe Essay

9860 words - 39 pages

IntroductionOver the last two decades of accelerated societal modernization in West European countries gender relations have also been modernized. An important part of gender related changes has to do with the gendered division of labour in which females were playing the role of men thus making themselves in cooperated in gender related changes, which in particular is reflected in the general increase in the gainful employment of women in these countries. (n1) However European women cannot be said to have shared common patterns in the life course over dais period. As early as the 1950s, the proportion of women who participated in the labour force differed considerably, and took distinctly different avenues (for example the share of women working part-time), between different countries. How can such differences in the development of women's labour force participation and in working time patterns are explained, and how can this be theorized?The most common line of argument is that national welfare state policy is decisive in structuring women's participation in the labour market. They are indeed no doubt that institutional conditions are of substantial importance for the employment behaviour of women (Crompton, 1998 and this issue). Nevertheless, the explanatory power of dais approach for understanding differential national gendered divisions of labour remains limited, I would argue, just because of this focus on the welfare state and its policies. This is partly because the assumptions about the impact of state policies on the behaviour of individuals are too deterministic.There are in principle two variations to this argument. In the first variant, the behaviour of women is seen as an immediate response to the policies of the state. Women are treated as rational individuals who orient their behaviour according to financial incentives (for example Gustafsson, 1997 p 10). However, the employment behaviour of women cannot be explained as a simple reaction to the policies of the welfare state in that the behaviour of individuals also refers to cultural values and norms (see also Hakim, 1996). Thus Duncan and Edwards (1997) argue that women also act according to ' gendered moral rationalities' where priorities differ according to socially derived notions of what is most 'rational' defined in moral terms. According to the second variant, which is more common in feminist discourse, women in general want to gain autonomy through employment, and therefore in general are oriented towards lifelong full-time employment. In this view other choices, for example part-time work, an employment break or unpaid family work, are seen as caused by institutional restrictions, and these choices are therefore only second best (for example Lewis, 1992; Orloff, 1993 p 78). However, the assumption that there is a homogeneous pattern of actions and orientations for women, with respect to family and waged work, throughout all of Western Europe does not seem very...

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