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Globalization, Uncertainty and Women’s Careers

An International Comparison

Edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld and Heather Hofmeister

Globalization, Uncertainty and Women’s Careers assesses the effects of globalization on the life courses of women in thirteen countries across Europe and America in the second half of the 20th century.
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Chapter 1: Globalization, Uncertainty and Women’s Mid-Career Life Courses: A Theoretical Framework

Heather Hofmeister, Hans-Peter Blossfeld and Melinda Mills


Heather Hofmeister, Hans-Peter Blossfeld and Melinda Mills1 INTRODUCTION Since the early 1960s, rates of mid-life women’s paid work have been steadily increasing in all modern societies. In most of the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), this integration has been coupled with a rise in more flexible types of nonstandard employment (Blossfeld and Hakim 1997; Daly 2000) or an expansion of the informal sector, most notably in Southern Europe (Gonzalez, Jurado and Naldini 2000). Since the late 1980s these phenomena seem to be enhanced by the process of globalization, which has dramatically accelerated the demand for a more disposable labor force with lower fixed costs and thereby accelerated the ‘feminization of the labor market’ (Standing 1989). The dominant (male) Fordist standard full-time and lifelong employment relationship that ties the worker to one occupation or firm over the life course has been gradually eroding in many countries (Fromm 2004; Mayer 2001; Myles 1990). Women’s rising labor force participation has been associated with this process. Globalization therefore appears to have ambivalent implications for women’s employment, largely depending on the welfare state and the country-specific employment regime. In some countries, it may foster women’s employment by allowing more women to (re-)enter the labor market than in the past, because more flexible jobs may bring a large group of mid-life women into the labor market that previously had no or only a marginal attachment or difficulties reconciling paid work with unpaid care duties. Yet, in other countries that already...

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