Thursday, 30 August 2012

Women’s employment in the institutional and cultural context

an article by Birgit Pfau-Effinger (University of Hamburg, Germany) published in International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy Volume 32 Issue 9/10 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to explore how cross-national differences in the employment rates of women with children under age three can be explained. It argues that not only differences in welfare-state family policies, but also differences in the gender culture contribute to the explanation of such differences.
The paper outlines the theoretical approach of the “gender arrangement” which conceptualizes the ways in which family policies and culture interact, together with social and economic factors, in their impact on gendered social practices. It then analyses the differences in the employment rates of women with children under age three in six European countries, and how these are influenced by family policies, the gender culture and the labour market situation in the specific country, using data from international surveys as well as country case studies from an international EU-Project.
The findings show that differences in family policies alone do not explain cross-national differences in the employment rates of mothers with children below age three. They support the argument that an explanation requires consideration of a more complex framework of factors, to which culture certainly contributes substantially.
The role that culture may have in the explanation of the employment of mothers with children in contrast to the role of family policies is still a contested issue. Empirical studies which support the assumption that culture matters in this explanation are still rare. This relates particularly also to the employment of women with children below age three. In this group, cross-national differences in these women’s employment rates are particularly high. The paper introduces theoretical and methodological elaborations in this regard.

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