SOC208 2019 Tut 5 Mon 1130 – Flexible Work and Gender Inequities in Work and Care – Let’s Fix the Incentives!

As Australian society shifts towards a service driven economy, the nature of work is changing, and with it, the balance of work and family life.

Our late modern economy is characterised by more targeted consumption of niche (rather than standardized mass produced) goods, and consequently by more flexible production. Workers, contractors and entrepreneurs are moving away from the 9 to 5, 5 day week routine towards more casual, part-time, contract work at all hours in a 24-7 economy. And they are producing these services in increasingly de-centralised workplaces, working in cafes rather than offices, and working from home in greater numbers than ever before. All of this is, of course, facilitated by the rise of the digital economy and online social networking, blurring the boundaries between private friendship and public business in a way that would put Amway to shame! There has seemingly never been a better, and easier time to start a business and work for ourselves, and the flexibility inherent in such arrangements should enable workers to better balance work and family life.

However, there is conjecture and evidence that structuring our modern working lives this way is having a severe impact on our family lives and connections. It is important to acknowledge that the ‘flexibility’ in our arrangements is often imposed upon us by bosses and the market, rather than chosen by us in a way that suits us and our family lives. Richard Sennett argues that work today is increasingly temporary and fractious, requiring that we commute to a multiplicity of locations (local, metropolitan, interstate, international), work all sorts of hours (including shiftwork), and live with an increasing precarity that disrupts our family lives and relationships.

The impacts of these changes fall disproportionately upon women. Women’s increasing movement into the workforce – rightly celebrated as emancipatory – has now become a necessity to pay the exorbitant cost of skyrocketing mortgages and rents in the never-ending Australian house price boom. Women are more likely to work multiple jobs, single mothers are moving into work in ever-greater number (thanks to recent changes in welfare payments), and yet they are still under-represented in senior business and management roles and suffer a gender wage gap of approximately $27,000 a year. The gender wage gap has been found to be much stronger at the upper levels of the private sector, with several multivariate studies (controlling for industry and career breaks) concluding this is clear result of discrimination against women obtaining high paying managerial positions.

In tandem with these inequities, the greater burden of unpaid work and childcare still falls on women. Women spend more hours working in every type of unpaid labour than men (except for gardening and outdoor tasks), and do more unpaid work even when they are the main breadwinner in a household.

These trends suggest that while a more flexible economy and work practices open up new opportunities for business and friendly working arrangement, there is need to redress structural problems that make these arrangements work against – rather than for – many of us. Addressing gender inequities in paid and unpaid work is paramount, and this involves not only a culture shift amongst (predominantly high-earning, private sector) men, but removing the incentives to keep such men in paid work to a greater degree than women – close the Gender Wage Gap, and improve the system of paid parental leave to encourage equal take-up by men. As a start – let’s fix the incentives!

S208UOW19 #Tut5 #Mon1130

Posted in SOC208 - Cities, Communities and Families, UOW.

6 Comments on SOC208 2019 Tut 5 Mon 1130 – Flexible Work and Gender Inequities in Work and Care – Let’s Fix the Incentives!

Charles Lenarduzzi said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

There are points I do and do not agree with regarding the gender pay gap. (As a foreword, I do recognise the pay gap is very real). To start, in the US, there are 1.35 female university/college students to every male student (NBER, 2006). Regardless of a large portion of females obtaining higher education, males still earn a higher annual salary on average. This can be attributed to the degrees males and females typically study. Males tend to study law, medicine and the degrees we see as money makers, while Women study humanities in much higher proportions (Humanities indicator, 2017). I believe the average annual salary wage gap can be narrowed by restructuring the current workplace roles by the encouragement of both genders into all fields of higher education. On top of this, in the case of a pregnancy, the role of looking after the child typically falls on the female, decreasing the time able to spend at work and in turn decreasing their annual salary.

Madeleine Wiersma said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

The workforce will have to increase in its flexibility to accommodate working mothers. As the reading pointed out, more mothers began going back to work in the past decade, and to support them choosing to go back to work – or being forced back due to welfare cutbacks – the contracts that they sign for their jobs needs to be. Many parents long to spend time with their children but have to place them in childcare due to the demands of their jobs, as the reading pointed out. “The lack of time for shared family activities had consequences for children, with more risky behaviours for adolescents in families with fewer shared activities.” (Bianchi and Milkie, 2010, 709). Personally, working with children, I see firsthand many children who finish school in the afternoon and just want to spend time with their parents, especially when they are young. If more mothers (or parents) are choosing to return to full time or part time work after the birth of their children, the wage gap needs to be closed and there needs to be easy access to childcare so that parents can feel supported.

Nadia Ciccolella said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

Gender and work has always been a controversial topic in society, the shift from hiring men and single women to hiring mothers with children has been a struggle and only recently have people become more acceptable to it. However this then introduced issues such as women receiving a lower wage to men – the gender pay gap. In Australia today most recently in 2016 the gender pay gap for an average full-time base salary is 17.7% per year. However with this being said, there are initiatives that are put into place in order to reduce the gender pay gap. One example to reduce this is improving caring arrangements and child care services for children, mothers would feel more at ease to enter back into the workforce knowing their concerns about their caring arrangements were diminished. However as Bianchi and Milkie (2010) state this can have negative consequences on the children of these mothers returning to work as children relationships with their mothers are diminished as they are spending less time with their mothers. With any situation there will always be positive and negatives, however more importantly it is clear that as more women enter back into the work force after having children the more our family lives and connections change.

Madison Ashton said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

I agree that the starting point is to remove incentives that keep men from leaving the work force. However, in the reading by Cooke and Baxter (2010) they noted that there are more parental leave provisions now as men have paternity leave that they ‘use it or lose it’ as it cannot be transferred to the mother. This would hopefully lead to more men taking on more responsibility in the private domestic sphere. Although women account for nearly half of the workforce which is a major increase, they still are faced inequalities with pay gaps, with women in Australia taking home around $251 less than men each week which is still a huge amount for today. The lecture and reading focus on a rise of technology influencing family and work life. Bianchi and Milkie (2010) note that work has become more diverse with this 24/7 economy and technology. The increase of technology has allowed for more flexibility of working hours to adhere to demands within the family however, it has not always been seen as a positive development as there are now more demands on work getting done as it can be done anywhere which has made the work sphere enter the domestic.

Bronte Petrolo @brontemai said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

A proposal to help eradicate this Gender Wage Gap is to improve caring arrangements for children. This Gap exists because of females lower workforce participation rate. Thus, improvements in caring arrangements would aid the diminishment of this Gap as mothers are still reluctant to re-enter the workforce because of their concerns regarding caring arrangements. Compared to fathers, mother’s employment has more of an affect on their child’s wellbeing (Bianchi & Milkie 2010, p. 710). However, there are some benefits of maternal employment, including children being better adjusted due to their stable routines. The negatives of maternal employment include; an increase in behavioural problems or reduced cognitive outcomes, as well as health issues including “increased respiratory problems and high rates of ear infections”. Children’s relationships with their mothers are also more diminished due to their reduced interactions, including their decreased ability to read with their mother (Bianchi & Milkie 2010, p. 710). These positive and negative impacts of maternal employment on children is a cause of mothers’ reluctance to re-enter and progress in the labour force. Therefore, improvements in caring arrangements will lead to greater participation of women in the workforce and thus, an eradication of the Gap. Bianchi, SM & Milkie, MA 2010, ‘Work and Family Research in the First Decade of the 21st Century’, Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 705-725.

Lexe Evans @lexe_evans said : Guest Report 2 weeks ago

This week the focus was on flexible work and gender inequalities in work and care. This has been demonstrated through Australian society and its shift in relation to the balance of work and family life. Bianchi and Milkie (2010), stated that a trend of the 2000-2010 decade was the increased diversity of families and workplaces. The changes in families, also meant increased changes within workplaces, where they became more diverse in the expansion of the economy. These changes of flexibility meant people could work wherever and when they wanted resulting in the influence between worker’s home lives and the balance of the greater interactions of society. Although there are positives to this change, the diversity of workplaces and families meant that the increased hours of working and the more inflexible approach was a major problem for families, leaving an insufficient amount of time for family life (Bianchi and Milkie 2010). This is particularly evident for single-parent households, who are employed and experience this lack of time, particularly meeting demands at home such as caring for children when sick. It is highlighted that there is great diversity between various families and the different structures of the workplace. References: Bianchi SM, Milkie MA (2010) ‘Work and Family Research in the First Decade of the 21st Century’. Journal of Marriage and Family 72: 705-725.

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