(Re)Conceptualization of Family and Gender Models

Feminist welfare state research focuses on the gender-selective nature of the commodification of labour. In the immediate post-WWII era, the family’s traditional function with respect to physical reproduction was based on the male breadwinner/female housewife model (Knijn and Ostner 2002). Hence, welfare state policies supported a traditional and unequal gender model. Since the 1960s, secondary trends of modernization and individualization, connected to labour market tertiarization, changed those respective arrangements, albeit to a rather different extent in different OECD countries. Various typologies were developed that distinguished welfare state policies according to their degree of support for the traditional breadwinner model (Lewis 2001). ‘Familialization’ and ‘de-familialization’ emerged as central categories to distinguish welfare state policies with respect to the production of care, either through the family or through the state and the market (Esping-Andersen 1996). These categories, however, may somewhat disguise gender relations within the family and the still prevalent role of women as primary caregivers (Daly 2011). Typologies for the gendered division of labour additionally identified a modernized male breadwinner family as a one-and-a-half earner model where women worked part-time. Furthermore, the dual-earner/dual career model referred to a more equal distribution of labour market integration and (possibly) care responsibilities between men and women in family households (Pfau-Effinger 1999). In contrast, the adult-worker model describes an ideal individualization of employment status and the attribution of care responsibilities to both men and women alike (Daly 2011).

So far, however, most studies on welfare state policies have not analyzed complementarities between the systems of collective bargaining and wage setting, and their influence on family or gender models. If we follow Palier and Thelen’s (2010) idea that institutional complementarities in coordinated market economies lead to an unravelling of institutions, institutional dualization may also apply to family policy. Here, dualiza- tion can be assessed if institutional incentives support the traditional breadwinner model even as newly created institutions support a dualearner model.

To identify institutional complementarities across different policy fields, other concepts must be used. The gender contract not only highlights contractual relations but also draws attention to gendered power relations (Hirdman 1998), including the role of collective actors, such as trade unions, and their impact on women’s working conditions. Furthermore, a change in the gender contract over time is assumed in accordance with the changing role of the state, its provision of care beyond the family and other support towards more equal gender relations (Hirdman 1998; O’Reilly and Nazio 2013). The concept of the ‘reproductive bargain’ (Gottfried 2013, 124) emphasizes that these respective relations are subject to negotiations between men and women, and that they may vary not only over time but also between different groups within the same society. The reproductive bargain captures labour market flux and the growth of precarious employment (Connolly and Whitehouse 2010) and highlights the link between the spheres of economic production and social reproduction (Streeck 2009).

Thus, cumulative incentives created across different policy fields towards a particular family model can be regarded as empirical evidence of institutional complementarities. As decisions are influenced but not determined by institutions, families themselves are actors of institutional coordination as well. Worsening employment conditions in (different) occupational labour markets that emerge as individual risks for each partner may therefore be mutually ‘secured’ at the household level. Decisions concerning an increase in a household’s labour supply, however, may vary due to different social norms or socio-economic status (Gottfried 2013). Furthermore, consideration must be given to the fact that some strategies to compensate for social risks are not available to all households—for example, single persons and single parents are not able to draw on a partner’s income. Emerging patterns of social inequality may thus be far more complex than the simple insider-outsider divide suggests.

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