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Chapter 2: Conceptualising work-family regimes: a theoretical framework

The considerable variation between countries in women’s labour force participation, in their employment patterns over their life course and in their market achievements have prompted scholars to search for societal mechanisms that constrain or facilitate women’s economic activity [Res03] [Gor98] [Sti01] [Van02]. Students of the family as well as those who focus on social stratification and gender inequality draw attention to the crucial importance of the institutional context within which individuals make their work and family decisions. In recent years, this interest has resulted in various typologies that aim to group countries on the basis of similarities and differences in the institutional context of the work-family nexus. In the following paragraph, we offer such a typology that combines components of the power-resource theory [Esp90] [Esp99] [Oco98] with aspects of gender and family raised by a feminist perspective [Lew92] [Orl93] [Orl01].

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Sorting countries into categories

As noted earlier, Esping-Andersen’s basic conceptualisation of three welfare regimes focuses on the way social welfare is produced and allocated. The three regimes – the Liberal, Social-Democrat and Conservative – are identified according to three dimensions: (a) the social institutions responsible for the citizen’s welfare. These would typically be the market, the state or the family, or some combination of the three; (b) the degree of de-commodification in a society, i.e. the extent to which the welfare of individuals is independent of their work in the market; and (c) the stratification order promoted, based on a theoretical assumption that the welfare state itself is a stratifying system (Esping-Andersen 1990: 23; 1999: 74-86).

The theoretical underpinnings of Esping-Andersen’s approach have been criticised, primarily by feminists, for its lack of attention to the role of gender and the little attention it devotes to the family as compared with the emphasis on the labour market and the state [Lew92] [Orl93] [Orl01]. Consequently, Esping-Andersen incorporated these criticisms into the power-resource theory in his later work [Esp99] by suggesting the notion of de-familialisation, which refers to the ways in which social policies weaken individuals’ (mainly women’s) reliance on the family to gain full economic independence (Esping-Andersen 1999: 45).

In constructing a typology of the work-family nexus that will guide the discussion in the following chapters, we take into account the two dimensions of welfare provision and gender ideology. Regarding the welfare dimension, we ask who the major welfare provider in the country is. We make a distinction between state and non-state (family or market) responsibility for provision. On the gender dimension, we look at societal ideology and the organisation of the division of labour and make a distinction between countries in which this division is gendered (i.e. men are expected to be the main providers while women take chief responsibility for care work) and gender-neutral arrangements in which both men and women are expected to participate in the labour market and care for their children. The cross-classification of these two dimensions yields four types of work-family regime based on the dependence or independence of the work-family decisions. These regimes are presented schematically in Table 2-1. We explain their underlying principles in the next section.

Table 2-1. Typology of work-family regimes
Welfare Provider
Non-state State
Division of labour Gendered a) Family dependence c) State dependence
Neutral b) Market dependence d) Individual independence

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Family regimes

We now describe in greater detail the four types of work-family regimes that are based on the intersection of the welfare provision and division of labour dimensions:

Family Dependence

The family-dependence regime is one in which the dominant gender ideology is that of the male breadwinner. The state in this regime may provide security for working people, but the main responsibility for welfare and for care work is relegated to the family. In other words, women are not encouraged to become economically independent and are not supported by the state for their caring work [Orl01]. As with all typologies, this is an ideal type and no country completely fits this construct. However, of the European countries, Italy and Greece most closely resemble this configuration of societal characteristics and can be seen as representing this regime type. As can be seen in Table 2-2, the level of female employment in these countries is relatively low (approximately 45% of women aged between 15 and 64 are in paid employment compared with more than 70% in Scandinavian countries) and the rate of part-time work is low as well (11% in Greece and 29% in Italy).

Market Dependence

This regime promotes the dual-earner model, according to which women as well as men are encouraged to participate in paid employment. The market-dependence regime is defined by its low level of state intervention (or de-commodification in Esping-Andersen's terms), and only a marginal and highly select minority (the most needy population) is eligible for state support. Because the primary means of achieving economic independence is through market-based work, this regime promotes a dual order stratification system, distinguishing between those who are part of the labour market and those who rely on state support (Esping-Andersen 1990: 27; 1999: 75). Since both parents are expected to take part in economic activity, family tasks such as childcare and housework are often relegated to a third party, arrangements which, typically, are market-based and costly. Consequently, women are highly selected to paid employment, based on their market power. Because gender equality is promoted in the market, those women who are positively selected to the labour market have access to lucrative jobs. They stand a good chance, therefore, of becoming economically independent [Orl01]. As with the previous family regime, this is also an ideal type that does not fully match any specific society. Yet, most Anglo-Saxon countries fit into this cluster, most of all the United States, where the female employment rate is relatively high (two-thirds of women aged between 15 and 64 are employed), and less than 20% of working women hold part-time jobs (see Table 2-2).

Individual Independence

This refers to a work-family regime in which the state takes chief responsibility for the welfare of individuals, and also promotes a dual-earner family model. The state takes a universal approach to social rights and maximises equality by providing generous allowances and protection to all citizens. As in the market-dependence regime, women’s employment is encouraged, although the state rather than the market is responsible for providing childcare substitutes. Sweden and Denmark are proto-typical examples of this regime. They are characterised by high employment rates for women (about 70%) and relatively low rates of part-time employment (about 20%). Publicly funded day-care coverage for young children is also high in these countries.

State Dependence

The state-dependence regime combines a gendered division of labour with extensive rights and protection for mothers. The underlying assumption is that mothers should care for their children, and the state therefore compensates them for their care work [Orl01]. In this case, the state assumes responsibility for the well-being of individuals when the family or the market fails to do so. Policies are directed toward maintaining the traditional family organisation, and the state intervenes by providing benefits to ensure the welfare of individuals. The work-family nexus of countries such as Germany and Belgium closely resembles this ideal-typical regime. As can be seen in Table 2-2, less than 60% of women aged between 15 and 64 in these two countries work for pay and about a third work on a part-time basis.

Table 2-2. Selected indicators of work and family arrangements in countries characterised by different types of regime
% of women (15-64) in employment* % of women working part-time** % of children 0-2 in day care % of children 3-5 in day care Paid maternity leave (weeks)**
Family Dependence
Italy 45.3 29 6.3 95 22
Greece 46.2 11 7.0 48 17
Market Dependence
UK 66.8 40 25.8 60 18
Ireland 58.0 35 15.0 55 18
USA 65.6 19 29.5 54 12
Individual Independence
Sweden 71.8 20.8 39.5 79 52
Denmark 70.8 24.3 61.7 83 52
State Dependence
Germany 59.6 30 9.0 85 14
Belgium 54.1 34 38.5 95 15

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Exercises 2.1 - 2.2

Exercise 2.1

  1. Countries associated with different work-family regimes are likely to feature different attitudes to gender equality. Consider Denmark, Belgium and Greece and suggest a hypothesis for which country will display (on average) a more favourable attitude to gender equality.
  2. Test your hypothesis by calculating the mean response to ‘Men should take as much responsibility as women for the home and children’.

Procedure:

Questions:

  1. Does a high value indicate a preference for gender equality?
  2. Do the differences among countries in the mean scores correspond to your hypothesis? Explain.
Nesstar
SPSS syntax
*You need to have a copy of SPSS installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.
*Open SPSS by clicking on the appropriate link.
*Open the ESS data by clicking ‘File’, ‘Open’, and ‘Data’ on the SPSS menu bar before you select the folder and the data set.
*Open a new syntax window by clicking ‘File’, ‘New’, and ‘Syntax’ on the SPSS menu bar.
*You can copy the syntax below and paste it into the syntax window in SPSS.
*Execute the syntax using the 'Run' option on the menu bar.

*Comments on commands start with an asterisk and end with a dot.

*Commands must always end with a dot.

*The following command causes the cases to be weighted by the design weight variable 'dweight'.

WEIGHT BY dweight.

*Create filter variable - only include respondents from Belgium, Denmark and Greece.

USE ALL.
COMPUTE filter_$=(cntry = 'BE' | cntry = 'DK' | cntry = 'GR').
VARIABLE LABEL filter_$ 'cntry = BE or DK or GR (FILTER)'.
VALUE LABELS filter_$ 0 'Not Selected' 1 'Selected'.
FORMAT filter_$ (f1.0).
FILTER BY filter_$.
EXECUTE.
 
SORT CASES BY cntry.
SPLIT FILE LAYERED BY cntry.
 
DESCRIPTIVES
VARIABLES=mnrsphm
/STATISTICS=MEAN STDDEV MIN MAX.

*Turn off the split file and weight, and select all cases.

SPLIT FILE OFF.
WEIGHT OFF.
USE ALL.
Sample Solution

Problem

Hypothesis: the most favourable attitudes to gender equality will be found in Denmark (representing the individual-independence regime) and the least favourable attitudes will be found in Greece (characterised by a traditional family-dependence regime).

Answers

  1. No. High values indicate a low preference for gender equality as they express disagreement with the statement that men should take more responsibility for the home and children.
  2. The findings appear to be in line with the hypothesis, as the lowest mean score (more egalitarian) is found in Denmark, the highest mean score is in Greece, and the mean score for Belgium is in between.

Exercise 2.2

  1. For the countries studied in Ex. 2.1, suggest a hypothesis for the period of time women stay at home full-time to care for children. Your hypothesis should state the country in which you would expect to find the highest proportion, and in which the lowest proportion, of women who do not stay at home for this purpose.
  2. Test your hypothesis using the variable ‘Total time spent full-time at home caring for your children’.

Procedure:

Questions:

  1. What is the relative frequency of women who did not stay home full-time to care for children? (Alternatively, compare the relative frequency of women who stayed at home for more than four years to care for children).
  2. Interpret the results in light of your hypothesis.
Nesstar
SPSS syntax
*You need to have a copy of SPSS installed on your computer, and you should download and use the dataset Family, Gender and Work.
*Open SPSS by clicking on the appropriate link.
*Open the ESS data by clicking ‘File’, ‘Open’, and ‘Data’ on the SPSS menu bar before you select the folder and the data set.
*Open a new syntax window by clicking ‘File’, ‘New’, and ‘Syntax’ on the SPSS menu bar.
*You can copy the syntax below and paste it into the syntax window in SPSS.
*Execute the syntax using the 'Run' option on the menu bar.

*Comments on commands start with an asterisk and end with a dot.

*Commands must always end with a dot.

* The following command causes the cases to be weighted by the design weight variable 'dweight'.

WEIGHT BY dweight.

*Create filter variable - only include women from Belgium, Denmark and Greece.

USE ALL.
COMPUTE filter_$=(cntry ='BE' | cntry ='DK' | cntry ='GR') & gender = 0.
VARIABLE LABEL filter_$ 'cntry = BE or DK or GR & gender = 0 (FILTER)'.
VALUE LABELS filter_$ 0 'Not Selected' 1 'Selected'.
FORMAT filter_$ (f1.0).
FILTER BY filter_$.
EXECUTE .
 
SORT CASES BY cntry.
SPLIT FILE LAYERED BY cntry.
 
FREQUENCIES
VARIABLES=flthmcc
/ORDER= ANALYSIS.

*Turn off the split file and weight, and select all cases.

SPLIT FILE OFF.
WEIGHT OFF.
USE ALL.
Sample Solution

Problem

Hypothesis: In societies characterised by the family-dependence regime, institutional arrangements aimed at supporting women’s leave are weak, and working women are likely to return to the labour market shortly after childbirth. Both the state-dependence and the individual-independence regimes support women’s leave, and in the former women are more likely to be encouraged to carry out the traditional female caring role and remain at home with young children.

Answers

  1. In Belgium, 24.2% of mothers reported that they did not stay at home full-time because of children. The figures for Denmark and Greece are 16.2% and 36.7%, respectively. Looking at those who stayed at home for four years or more to care for children, we find 25.4% (9.1 + 16.3) in Belgium, 15.3% in Denmark and 24.2% in Greece.
  2. The results generally support the hypothesis. The proportion of mothers who immediately returned to the labour market is higher in Greece than in the two other countries. The proportion of mothers who stayed at home to care for children for extended periods (four years or more) is lowest in Denmark.
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