Women and Employment
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Women and Employment

Changing Lives and New Challenges

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi

How is women’s employment shaped by family and domestic responsibilities? This book, written by leading experts in the field, examines twenty-five years of change in women’s employment and addresses the challenges facing women today.
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Chapter 10: The Household Division of Labour: Changes in Families’ Allocation of Paid and Unpaid Work

Susan Harkness


Susan Harkness INTRODUCTION Historically much of economic policy has been based on the premise that households, and in particular those with children, specialise in their division of labour, with men concentrating their efforts on market work and women in household production. Recent decades have, however, seen a rapid decline in the male breadwinner model of employment as the numbers of dualearner and single-adult households have grown. Women’s position in the labour market has improved enormously over recent decades, both in terms of employment and relative earnings. The rise in employment among women of working age has been well documented, growing by 10 percentage points since 1979, to 70 per cent by 2006.1 This rise has been particularly marked among mothers and, especially since 1997, among those with preschool children and single parents. While these changes might be expected to have important implications for the ways in which families organise work, both inside and outside the home, male employment patterns underwent little change in the 1990s and in particular there was little evidence of a significant reduction in the number of hours being worked by men. In 2002, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that men full-timers in Britain worked some of the longest hours in Europe, while press reports suggest that the ‘macho’ long-hours culture in Britain is leading to an increasingly stressed workforce, having an adverse effect on family relationships, and contributing towards the relatively poor status of women in the labour market.2...

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