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?

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


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


Unemployment_rates_by_gender,_EU,_seasonally_adjusted,


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.


Importance of public sector for gender equality


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

  • 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

  • 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

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

  • 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 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

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

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

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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