How to sustain interest in gender equality policies during a recession
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How to sustain interest in gender equality policies during a recession?. Jill Rubery Manchester Business School. Outline. From He-cession to She-(au)sterity Resisting marginalisation Maintaining visibility and legitimation Preserving the public space Future for gender equality.

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How to sustain interest in gender equality policies during a recession?

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How to sustain interest in gender equality policies during a recession

How to sustain interest in gender equality policies during a recession?

Jill Rubery

Manchester Business School


Outline

Outline

  • From He-cession to She-(au)sterity

  • Resisting marginalisation

  • Maintaining visibility and legitimation

  • Preserving the public space

  • Future for gender equality


From he cession to she au sterity

From He-cession to She-(au)sterity

  • Initial recession hit male employment- concentrated in manufacturing and construction

  • Employment protection partially provided by public expenditure- continuing increases in health and education

  • Reduction in gender gaps through levelling down


He cession closes gender gap by levelling down

He-cession closes gender gap by levelling down


How to sustain interest in gender equality policies during a recession

Unemployment_rates_by_gender,_EU,_seasonally_adjusted,


Countering the he cession perceptions

Countering the he-cession perceptions

  • Women’s employment losses need to be considered in context of need to ‘catch up’ with men - should be considered against trends not just in absolute terms

  • The levelling down process may be reinforcing the flexibilisation of the labour market- women’s poor quality job standards becoming the norm for some men as well as women.

  • The switch to austerity policies makes it almost certain that women will suffer most in the current/next phase- unless the indirect impact on the private sector is even greater.


How to sustain interest in gender equality policies during a recession

Importance of public sector for gender equality


From he cession to she au sterity1

From he-cession to she-(au)sterity

Public sector adjustment impacts on women through:

  • Wage cuts and freezes

  • Job cuts/ freezes

  • Outsourcing

  • Reductions in services

  • Reductions in benefits- lone mothers/ child support


2 resisting marginalisation

2. Resisting marginalisation

  • Limited evidence of voluntary withdrawal of women

  • Rise in female headed households ( whether planned or unplanned)

  • High level of open unemployment where previously more hidden (UK)

  • Major rise in involuntary part-time work


Reasons why policy makers may not be able to marginalise gender equality issues

Reasons why policy-makers may not be able to marginalise gender equality issues

  • Women’s non marginal contribution to household income makes back to the home policy often not feasible

  • Women’s independent attachment to the labour market especially among higher educated makes them less of a reserve army.

  • Need for state support for parents will not disappear- for example policy of forcing lone parents into work undermined by lack of jobs and need for care provision.


3 maintaining visibility and legitimation

3.Maintaining visibility and legitimation

Visibility

  • Gender equality has been removed from central status in EU employment strategy- reappearance in piecemeal fashion

  • Dismantling of equality institutions and equality budgets in some countries – e.g. Ireland, Spain, UK


Eu2020 overview

EU2020 Overview

  • Three priorities plus enhanced economic governance

    • Smart Growth - an economy based on knowledge and innovation

    • Sustainable Development - a low carbon economy

    • Inclusive Growth - high employment, acquisition of skills, fight poverty and exclusion

  • Ten Guidelines

    • Four mention gender but rest gender blind

    • Four on employment (no mention of gender in education and training systems)

  • Seven Flagship Policies

    • None focused on gender

    • All with no evidence of gender mainstreaming and only the (delayed) European Platform against Poverty recognised greater risks for women

  • Eight Targets

    • Four on employment

    • One mentions women but no separate targets (75% employment rate “for women and men”)


3 maintaining visibility and legitimation1

3.Maintaining visibility and legitimation

Legitimation of gender equality policy challenged by arguments that

  • Recession is only a he-cession

  • Equality is a luxury good

  • Targeted help for households through means-testing has to replace individual rights under austerity

    Prospects for success may depend upon  

  • Embeddedness of equality norms in society

  • Embeddedness of female participation norm in family economy

  • Whether emergent equality gender ideology has replaced or coexists with conservative gender ideology


4 preserving the public space

4. Preserving the public space

Importance of public space for gender equality

  • Space for alternative society values- (human and social investment)

  • Alternative to female unpaid domestic labour ( limited evidence of male unpaid domestic labour as substitute)

  • Source of support for women in comparison to private sector (discriminatory wages, male patterns of working time etc)


Key challenge

Key challenge

How to maintain the public space when the government is

  • shrinking the size

  • eroding the quality

  • and blurring boundaries of public/private space-

    That is, the state may be moving from promoter to underminer of gender equality.


5 future for gender equality

5. Future for gender equality

Optimistic scenario

  • Stalled progress- then back to gradual move upward to equality

    Pessimisticscenario

    Critical juncture involving for example:

  • Reversal of normalisation of adult worker model- pressure on women to return to the home

  • Generalisation of flexible labour market- equality through levelling down

  • Increasing variation among women (more inactivity, more flexible, and more effective competition for top jobs)

  • Reinforcement of country differences (dependent on equality norms) or erosion ( through decreasing scope for welfare state )

    Outcome unclear but

  • progress can no longer be assumed

  • and reversal of gains likely to be both resisted and uneven.


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