Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century
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Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century

New Barriers and Continuing Constraints

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette

Both women and men strive to achieve a work and family balance, but does this imply more or less equality? Does the persistence of gender and class inequalities refute the notion that lives are becoming more individualised? Leading international authorities document how gender inequalities are changing and how many inequalities of earlier eras are being eradicated. However, this book shows there are new barriers and constraints that are slowing progress in attaining a more egalitarian society. Taking the new global economy into account, the expert contributors to this book examine the conflicts between different types of feminisms, revise old debates about ‘equality’ and ‘difference’ in the gendered nature of work and care, and propose new and innovative policy solutions.
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Chapter 11: Restructuring Gender Relations: Women’s Labour Market Participation and Earnings Inequality Among Households

Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund and Arne Mastekaasa


Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund and Arne Mastekaasa INTRODUCTION In most Western countries, in the decades following World War II, the male breadwinner model was dominant among married couples: husbands went to work and earned a family income, whereas women stayed at home as housewives and took care of children and housework (Crompton 1999). This traditional division of labour within the households coincided with a period of lower household income inequality than earlier (Aaberge et al. 1997). From the 1960s and onwards, in many countries married women’s labour market participation increased, resulting in a decline in the male breadwinner model and a restructuring of gender relations and work (Crompton 2006; Ellingsæter 2001). In what seems to be a parallel process, income inequalities between households have increased in most Western countries (Alderson and Nielsen 2002: 1248). This process (from higher to lower to higher levels of economic inequality) has been termed ‘the great U-turn’. As argued by Esping-Andersen (2007: 641), the rise in income inequality was first restricted to the United Kingdom and the United States, yet later most countries have followed, including the Scandinavian countries, otherwise known for their egalitarian income distributions: ‘The growth in market income Ginis between 1980 and 2000 ranges from a 6% to 7% increase in Denmark and Italy to a 20%-plus jump in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and most surprising, Sweden’ (Esping-Andersen 2007: 641).1 Increasing household inequalities may be caused by a number of factors, such as technological change, restructuring of industries,...

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