Academic journal article Demographic Research

Towards an Integrated Approach for the Analysis of Gender Equity in Policies Supporting Paid Work and Care Responsibilities

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Towards an Integrated Approach for the Analysis of Gender Equity in Policies Supporting Paid Work and Care Responsibilities

Article excerpt


This paper aims to develop a conceptual framework for analysing the degree to which public policies support gender equity in paid work and care. Combining the distinction between commodification and decommodification and the distinction between defamilialisation, supported familialism, and familialism by default our study identifies a number of relevant policies, ranging from services, leave entitlements, income support measures, and fiscal instruments to forms of acknowledgement of care work in pension systems. Although our main objective is conceptual, we offer a comparative overview of these policies for all of the EU countries, plus Norway. Thus, we provide a preliminary typology of policy approaches.

1. Introduction

Interest in the way policies promote or hinder gender equity in the family and on the labour market is hardly new. Most studies have, however, considered only a small set of policies, or even just one policy, rather than looking at the interactions between different policies that intervene in the same area. In this paper, by using an intergenerational responsibilities perspective, and by looking at both financial and care responsibilities, we aim to develop and test a conceptual framework that will enable us to take an integrated approach to assessing gender equity that encompasses a variety of policy measures and spheres.

We are aware that policies are only one part of the overall gender equity (or inequity) system. They interact with the labour market, family and gender cultures, and country-specific forms of class inequality (e.g., Cooke 2011, Crompton and Lyonette 2007; Lewis, Campbell, and Huerta 2008; McDonald 2009, Orloff 2009a). The relationship between these different contextual dimensions is neither one of pure causality nor one of pure autonomy. Nonetheless, since policies-regardless of their partiality-are structuring factors in the context-specific system of the resources and constraints within which individuals, households, and families develop their strategies, we seek to identify the implicit and explicit assumptions concerning gender-specific arrangements that shape the way policies directly or indirectly regulate responsibilities and obligations within families, and between families and the state.

2. Background literature, theoretical framework, and research questions

The literature on gender inequality as it affects opportunities to participate in the labour market and to achieve financial autonomy focuses mainly on the gender division of paid and unpaid work in the family. This aspect is perceived as being largely responsible for the stalled (Hochshild 1989), unfinished (Gerson 2009). or incomplete (Esping-Andersen 2009) character of the "gender equality revolution." Some authors emphasise, however, that unpaid work is not just a constraint on paid work, but also a valuable activity that deserves more social recognition (e.g., Knijn and Kremer 1997; Knijn and Ostner 2008). In an attempt to combine the two perspectives in order to develop a policy approach that fosters gender equity, Gornick and Meyers (2009) have argued that the dual earner/dual carer model resolves the tension between employment-focused and care-focused demands concerning both gender equity and women's financial autonomy. According to this perspective, policies should a) support women's labour force participation by partly relieving them of family-linked care responsibilities, b) acknowledge the value of care work by providing both time and financial compensation for care giving, and c) support and incentivise men to share care responsibilities.

The dual earner/dual carer model has three obvious limitations, quite apart from the fact that it is not a normatively universal model (e.g., Lewis, Campbell, and Huerta 2008; Orloff 2009b). First, it presupposes that there are good jobs for all, so that working for pay is worthwhile in practice. Second, it is based on the assumption that the dual responsibilities of earning and caring are always shared by a couple. …

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