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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 2: Women’s Employment in Times of Globalization: A Comparative Overview

Dirk Hofäcker


Dirk Hofäcker INTRODUCTION This chapter provides an internationally comparative overview of key features of female labor market participation and links their development patterns to key aspects of globalization processes. In doing so, this overview intends to serve as contextual background for the subsequent country studies in this volume. At the outset of the twentieth century, paid employment was a strongly male activity, and a clear division of labor existed in most middle-class families between a male breadwinner and a female homemaker. However, recent social processes have challenged this division of labor. Women’s increasing integration into the labor market has even led in some countries to a partial replacement of the traditional division by new patterns that are given labels such as ‘adult worker’ or ‘dual earner’ (Korpi 2000; Lewis 2004). Where they occur, these developments are often interpreted as significant advances towards dismantling gender differences. However, feminist theorists have criticized this positive view for several reasons (Daly 2000; Fagan and Rubery 1999; Hakim 1997; Sainsbury 1999). First, despite changes in female labor market participation, the division of housework has only marginally changed. Second, empirical studies have shown that the use of crude labor force participation rates may well obscure important differences in the extent and quality of women’s integration in the labor market (Hakim 1993; Jonung and Persson 1993). The emergence of ‘atypical’ forms of work (such as part-time work or flexible work arrangements), heralded as creating opportunities for women to find new places in the labor market, was...

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