Social inequality: Topic 2A

Patterns and trends in inequality and difference- gender

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the price of sex - Bunting

  • Over the course of a life time the cost of being female in Britian is nearly 50% less income than male. Theres no mystery behind the bigest cause in the pay gap. Womens responsibiities that cripple their acheivments in the labour market and expose them to the risk of poverty when relationships break down. Women serge ahead in their carears in their 20's but after their first child their working patterns diverge from those of men cutting back their carears not applying for promotions and changing their jobs to opt for work that fits around their childrens lives. They take time out of the job market and loose confidence and skills and when they do go back to work after several years they typically drop three or four skill levels.
  • in the 90's many women responded by taking part time work but this "mummy track" brings fewer promotional prospects, less interesting work and a pay gap double that for full time work.
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Women and disadvantage

The broard picture is that women are more likely to be poor than men and to remain in poverty for longer periods of time. The two biggest groups of poor women are lone pensioners and single parents.

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Labour market disadvantage

  • theres a lot of problems with making fiar comparisons between men and womens earnings. obviously a female doctor will earn more than a male labourer however:
  • Gordon and shepard- its important to compare male and female wages across similar jobs and to control for other factors such as length of service. Also women tend not to work as many hours as men so a distinction has to be made between hourly earnings and weekly earnings nevertheless earnings surveys do show a 'gender gap' exists so that men currently earn about 10% more than women for the same work.
  • Women have often been marginalised in the workplace. In the past men have used their collective power to resist the entry of women into certain crafts (eg printing) or proffesions (eg medicine) although legal barriers have now been eliminated certain workplaces are still unfriendly to women. For example 'long hours culture' and the lack of creches put the mothers of younf children at a disadvantage. Third futher pressure is put on women by the prevailing ideology that men are the 'real' breadwinners although this ideology is much weaker now than in the past it still plays a key role in shaping womens attitudes,  ambitions and behaviour.
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Labour market disadvantage 2

  • Goverment stats show that almost half of all women have total individual outcomes of less than 100 pounds a week however female poverty is often hidden as the most common measure of poverty used is 'household income' which conceals the low income of women on the assumption that they share their husbands income. 
  • 47%of women with children under 5 don't work at all and have no individual income this has improved since 1973 when only 27% of all women (with at least one child under 5) were economically active. By 2001 this had increased to 53%.
  • Women are more likely than men to work part time. Of the 6.8 million part time workers in the U.K in 2002 80% were women. 44% of female employees were part timers compared with only 8% of male employees.
  • Only 20% of women with school age children 5-16 work full time in Britian (a much lower rate than the average among economically developed nations). Their wages are lower on average. Men are more likely than women to be Self employed. Of the 3 million people who were self employed in the U.K in 2002 75% of men and 15% male workers were self employed compared with 7% of female workers.
  • vertical segregation- women are under representated at the top level
  • Desail et al- women are begining to break through the glass ceiling and ocupational profiles for men and women will converge in the futute.
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Glass ceiling - ecos 2004

  • Women make up 45% of the workforce but are underrepresented at the top.
  • 9% of company directorss
  • 13% of council cheif executives
  • 7% of senier police officers
  • 9% of newspaper editors
  • 18% of MP'S
  • 6% of high court judges
  • 29% of secondary school heads
  • are women---

ecos 2004

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Family life

  • Elston, Dunscombe and Marsden, Grundy and Henrietta, Phal, Rappaports and Gershuny- argue theres still an unequel division of labour in the home including housework, decision making, emotional work and control of finances.
  • There are methological issues in measuring the gap. First of all many people dissagree with what constitutes as "housework" does it include reading the children a bedtime story or pottering around the garden?
  • Leonard- argues women tend to underestimte time spent on childcare while men overestimate (eg anytime spent with children is seen as childcare) also some studies rely on peoples estimations but their perceptions amy not correspond to reality.
  • Gershuny- notes that different results are obtained if people are asked to keep 'time use' diaries noting the precise amount of time spent on household chores in a typical week. Even so recording the time spent on tasks is problematic since people often juggle several tasks at once. Moreover the diary aproach can be criticised for midding out the "meanings" of tasks e.g the difference between urgent and non urgent tasks and between providing help and taking responsibility.
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Family life 2


  • the amount of time fathers spend with their children rose from less than 15 mins on average weekday in the mid 1970's to 2 hours a day by the late 1990's. At weekends it rises further to an average 6 hours each day. Nevertheless the main burden of childcare tends to fall on women this unequel division of labour has serious implications for womens work participation especially if hte children are young.
  • Burghes- men are increasingly foccused on their roles as a father
  • Boulton- pointed out that asking respondants who does certain taks does not always reveal who takes ultimate responsibility in her sample less than 20% of men played a major role in childcare.
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Family life: Demographic factors

  • Theres been a large increase in the number of lone parent families mostly female headed and these families are much more likely than two earnered families to be poor. 45% of all poor children live with a lone parent. 30% of spf live in poverty.
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Family life: Un fair shares

  • theres no garentee that household income is distrobuted fairly amongst its members.
  • phal- presents evidence that some women live in poverty even in households with more 'personal' spending moeny while women cut back where moeny is short. Inequalities seem to be greatest where men control the household finances and least when the partners pool their incomes.
  • Women life longer than men.
  • Gannon- beleives women face double disadvantage as they are likely to be poorer in old age as their dwinding state pensions fail to keep pace with inflation. Women are ess likely to have built up occupational pensions becaue of htier more sparadic carear patterns and also face dwinding status as they loose their social netweorks as friends and husbands die, and face lower status due as they loose their looks and sexual reproductivness.
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Family life: Female progress

  • Changes in the economy have transformed the sex comosition of the workforce and enabled women to take on a wider range of jobs and carears.
  • Robberts"economic and occupational trends in the second half of the 20th century were relatively kind to women".
  • This progress can be summarised by three major trends the feminisation of the workplace, the progress of girls in education and reduction in gender inequalities.
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Feminisation of the workplace

  • From the 1950's onwards there was a trend towards the increasing feminisation of the workplace and this accelerated during hte 1980's and 1990's. Between 1981 and 2003 the numbers of women in employment in Britian increased from 8.8 mill to 12.9 mill while the numbers of male workers remained static at around 15.2 mill.
  • this trend is largely due to an increase in the number of women who are economically active (in work or unemployment but seeking work) this increase in economic activity even aplies to women with pre school age children)
  • horizontal segregation has decreased since the 70's
  • Crompton- specifies that with the decline in manual occupations and traditionally male inductries such as mining we might expect to see durther decline in sex typed ocupants the shift in the economy from heavy industry services has created more job oportunities for women. furthermore vertical segregation is declining.
  • the pay gap is closing- the figures in 2012 were the narrowest on record
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The progress of girls in education

  • It wasn't seen as necacary to educte girls untill the 20th centurary through the 20h centurary girls joined boys in schools in increasing numers in school and university but were seen as the inferior prtners having lower levels of acheivment.
  • However in the 90's and byond girls have overtken boys in nearly every public exam (accept only 9% of women get first class degrees where as 10% of men do). Women get better exam grades than men in all subjects though the difference between men and women in maths and science is the lowest.
  • Rather than being cellebrated as a success for women its being veiwed as "a crisis for boys" ad underplays the differences between social class and ethnic groups. For example working class girls are failing where as middle class boys are frequently getting good grades. Similaraly there are differences such as the exelent rates of acheivment for both boys and girls who are british born chinease where as bangla britians are frequently failing.
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Reduction in family inequalities

Young and Willmott- beleive symetrical familie are increasinlh yhe norm whereby mena nd women share family taskts equally.

men are stepping more into family duties to equalise household duties- Gershuny

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Political and Social processes

  • the equel pay and sex discrimination act- allowed more blatenat forms of ex discrimination in the workplace, moreover the goverment has provdided ta credits and benefits to allow lone parents to work.
  • Women themselves have changed. Prtly as a result of growing influence of feminism, women are more carear minded nowadays, more effecive contraception makes it easier for them to combine work with family responsibilities. Also the growing instability of family life creates an incentive for them to become financially indipendent through work. Stigma attached to remaining single, being the boss and remaining childfree and living alone have freed women from the family. Theres no pay gap for women who are single and childfree in comparison to single child free men. The gender gap only exists for women once they marry and or have children.
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A male crisis?

Mac and Ghail- identified a crisis of masculinity in britian. He argued that men were experienceing problems due to male unemployment in traditional working class areas increasing numbers of young men with a criminal record, girls overtaking boys in educational acheivment and higher male suicide rates. men commit suicide in greater numbers than women and live on average 7 years less. Faced with rising challenges to their traditional privledges and responsibilities many males were confused and unsure of their "proper" roles and identities. in the 1990's many fears were voiced about the growing problem of the "redundant male". Young working class men it was predicted, would become increasingly marginalised in a feminised world where most jobs no longer required physical strength.

Middle class males looed under threat as emplyers declaired they needed feminine skills. Women were supposedly more "people friendly' and possessed sensitive managment and communication skills required for the modern world of work. A number of commentators treated these predictions as little more than scare stories but others htrought there were signs of a genuine shift in the ballence of gender power.

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Redundant men

As some women have been advancing some men have been retreating. The employment rate for men has been declinging over the past 20 or 30 years it was mainly mens jobs that wer lost as a result of the labour shake outs from manufactoring and extractive industries.

Beyon- argues that de industrialisation was immensly damaging for many working class men, the old inductrial labourers along with skilled and semi skilled workers were rendered obsolete by the technological advances thry had helped impliment. Jobs that depended on physical strench vanished and in their place came at best short term contracts and part time work. The plight of redundant minors was highlighte din films such as the full monty many disgarded men appear to be poorly placed to land the new service sectro jobs on offer these men traditionally took pride in their masculine identity yet many new jobs seem to call for more 'feminine skiils' such as being able to manage peple with sensitivity and tact. moreover working class men may lack the educaitonal qualifications which are required for the new jobs.

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