SOC208 2019 Tut 5 Fri 1230 – 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 #Fri1230

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

2 Comments on SOC208 2019 Tut 5 Fri 1230 – Flexible Work and Gender Inequities in Work and Care – Let’s Fix the Incentives!

Karissa said : Guest Report a month ago

This week was focused on flexible families, work and care. It was noted the changes in Australian society in work and care within the family. Bianchi and Milkie (2010) touched on the gender inequalities in the workforce has been addressed and the rates of woman working has risen. The balance of work and family life was a common focus them seen in society. The decade of 2000-2010 has seen an increase in diversity in families and workplaces. For example gay, lesbian and sole parenting families are rising. This flexibility means that people are able to work whenever and wherever they like, whether that be from home or form an office which puts a strain on the workers home life. This seems to be a positive change for society but the diversity of workplaces and families means that there are many more hours spent working and family life is being put on hold. Many families feel this demand of tight schedules and meeting deadlines especially sole parents who are employed and take care of children. The structures within a workplace are becoming very diverse as are the structures of families creating difficulty in work and family life balance.

Kathy Miller said : Guest Report a month ago

Gender inequalities in work and family responsibilities have long been documented and recorded, however the narrowing of this imbalance is evident as written in this week’s reading Bianchi & Milkie (2010). The national gender pay gap has reached its lowest level in 20 years dropping to 14.6% (ABS,2018). Is this real evidence though that the discrimination between men and women has decreased or is it simply that women have increased pressure to remain in fulltime work in an attempt to keep up with their male competitors in the workforce rather than spend lengthier time at home raising children. Bianchi and Milkie also identified that men had increased their time in participating in child care and household chores within the family, which hopefully indicates a shift in attitudes towards what was previously viewed as “womens work”. Or possibly just an indication that this is a practical necessity for the mother to maintain her employment as financial burdens of the modern family continue to squeeze our budgets. This resulting in men needing to take on a greater role in the family’s responsibilities. What is evident without doubt is that greater importance on positive and quality interactions with children and their parents has become increasingly important in working families to raise happy successful adults. This trend has led to increased family and work life balance to include not just commitments to work related needs but valued family time incorporated into day to day routines. As discussed in the lecture, these values have seen a decrease in mass production and moving away from the demands of the 9-5 work day and an increase in smaller Niche markets or self employment to allow greater flexibility whilst maintaining the lifestyle enabled by two incomes.

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