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Women in and out of paid work

Women in and out of paid work: Changes across generations in Italy and Britain

Cristina Solera
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  • Book Info
    Women in and out of paid work
    Book Description:

    Over the last fifty years women's employment has increased markedly throughout developed countries. Women of younger generations are much more likely than their mothers and grandmothers to enter the labour market and stay in it after they marry and have children. Are these changes due only to changes in women's investments and preferences, or also to the opportunities and constraints within which women form their choices? Have women with higher and lower educational and occupational profiles combined family responsibilities with paid work differently? And have their divisions changed? With an innovative approach, this book compares Italy and Great Britain, investigating transformations in women's transitions in and out of paid work across four subsequent birth cohorts, from the time they leave full-time education up to their 40s. It provides a comprehensive discussion of demographic, economic and sociological theories and contains large amounts of information on changes over time in the two countries, both in women's work histories and in the economic, institutional and cultural context in which they are embedded. By comparing across both space and time, the book makes it possible to see how different institutional and normative configurations shape women's life courses, contributing to help or hinder the work-family reconciliation and to reduce or reinforce inequalities. Women in and out of paid work will be valuable reading for students, academics, professionals, policy makers and anyone interested in women's studies, work-family reconciliation, gender and class inequalities, social policy and sociology.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-779-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Chiara Saraceno

    Changes in women’s behaviour with regard to fertility and labour market participation are possibly two of the most important processes that have reshaped the overall societal framework in the developed countries in the second half of the 20th century and in the first decade of the 21st. On the one hand, together with increasing life expectancy, low birth rates have reshaped the demography both of society and of families and kin. On the other hand, women’s, and particularly mothers’, labour market participation has not only changed women’s lifecourse patterns and resources; it has also changed the organisation of everyday life...

  3. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the second half of the twentieth century, rates of women’s employment increased markedly in all the advanced countries. As much research shows, this increase was due mostly to the changed behaviour of married women and mothers. Indeed, work and family have everywhere become more compatible. Compared to their ‘mothers’ and ‘grandmothers’, women belonging to the younger generations have not only entered the labour market on a larger scale, but they have also reduced their exits or shortened their family-care breaks.

    Several phenomena have contributed to this remarkable transformation. On the supply side, women have increasingly invested in education, closing...

  4. TWO Conceptualising influences on women’s employment transitions: from various sociological and economic theories towards an integrated approach
    (pp. 15-52)

    Women’s labour market participation, marriage and fertility behaviour, and, generally, gender roles changed dramatically during the second half of the 20th century. Given their extent and their economic, social and also moral implications, such changes have dominated the academic and political debate and generated an enormous body of empirical and theoretical literature. Some theories focus on supply-side factors such as human capital resources and work–family orientations. Others analyse women’s labour supply within the context of the household or of the social stratification system by looking at the effect of the partner’s resources or women’s class position. Yet others emphasise...

  5. THREE The different Italian and British contexts: the link to women’s employment patterns
    (pp. 53-92)

    Italy and Britain differ greatly in the level, type and pattern of women’s labour market participation, in their normative and institutional contexts, and in the way that these have changed from the 1950s to the 2000s. In this chapter, I shall look at changes in the potential determinants of women’s employment behaviour, as specified in the previous chapter (Figure 2.1). More precisely, I shall start by describing trends in female activity rates, in the overall and sectoral distribution of demand and in women’s supply characteristics. The description is based on international cross-sectional data and is intended to give ‘snapshots’ of...

  6. FOUR Method, data and hypotheses
    (pp. 93-122)

    As mentioned earlier, in this book I use two longitudinal datasets and event-history methods in order to capture and explain changes across cohorts in Italian and British women’s lifetime employment patterns. The analysis is conducted within an institutional rational-action framework, which recognises different forms of rationality, the role and heterogeneity of both preferences and constraints, and their complex interrelations. This chapter provides a description of the methods, datasets, variables and techniques used for the empirical analyses described and discussed in the rest of the book. More precisely, it starts, in the next section, by illustrating the nature and advantages of...

  7. FIVE Who leaves the labour market and who returns? The changing effect of marriage and children
    (pp. 123-150)

    The growth in female labour market participation in the post-war decades has raised important questions concerning changes in the factors fostering or inhibiting women’s labour supply over the lifecourse. Has the share of women pursuing a continuous or discontinuous career changed? Who, once they have started to work, tend more to exit from and return to paid work? Have these risks changed across generations, and if so, how? In particular, has the trade-off between work and family changed? How and for whom?

    In this chapter I first look at the entire observed work trajectory from first job up until the...

  8. SIX ‘Her’ and ‘his’ education and class: new polarisations in work histories
    (pp. 151-172)

    Everywhere, education is a strong discriminator of women’s labour market supply and types of family–work combination. As discussed in Chapter Two, it gives access to higher job positions and wages, it mediates attitudes and identities and it furnishes greater bargaining power in adopting ‘preferred’ choices. Moreover, everywhere a woman’s allocation of time between paid and unpaid work is negotiated within the household, and, because of either cognitive or instrumental rationality, it is influenced by her partner’s symbolic and material resources. However, variations across countries in the link between education, motherhood and participation are still wide. This chapter focuses precisely...

  9. SEVEN Conclusions
    (pp. 173-188)

    It is a well-established fact that over the last 50 years women’s labour market participation has increased in all the advanced countries. It is also well established that this increase has mainly concerned the behaviour of married women and mothers and has been due to a constellation of interrelated micro and macro factors. These include the rising demand for female labour, the increasing preference among women for non-domestic roles, the growing opportunity costs of homemaking as women’s education and real wages have risen, and the welfare state’s increasing support for work–family reconciliation. Also well documented is the cross-country variation...