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How do family-friendly policies affect the domestic division of labour?

How do family-friendly policies affect the domestic division of labour?

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Lecturer Nomination) Competition by Conor D'Arcy. It is nominated by Lecturer Daniel Faas of Trinity College, University of Dublin in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Lecturer Nomination) Competition by Conor D'Arcy. It is nominated by Lecturer Daniel Faas of Trinity College, University of Dublin in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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How do family-friendly policies affect the domestic division of labour? 
 This essay will attempt to analyse the effect which family-friendly policies have upon the domesticdivision of housework with regard to the European welfare state. It will address what is understood
by the term ‘family
friendly’ and discuss why the division of domestic labour is seen as an important
topic. The main theories regarding the amount of housework done by men and women will then beexamined, highlighting their strengths and fa
ilings, as well as some of the ideas’
underlyingassumptions on the nature of equality, work and family. A review of social policies that have beenintroduced with the expectation of altering the distribution of domestic work will be undertaken.The essay will conclude with a questioning of the nature of values, habits and change and what rolethe state can play in all this.
What are Family-Friendly Policies?
According to the OECD
, ‘*f+amily policies are defined as those policies that inc
rease resources of households with dependent children; foster child development; reduce barriers to having childrenand combining work and family commitments; and, promote gender equity in employment
opportunities.’ The key points of focus in this de
finition then are children, work and gender equality.The family-friendly welfare state seeks to allow people, particularly women, to achieve a betterwork-life balance (Meyer and Herd 2007; Fukuda 2003). What form do these policies take? The mostcommonly discussed include childcare facilitation and parental leave. Also viewed as family-friendlyare child allowances and other programmes which seek to remove barriers to women improving
2their labour market position, like reducing tax with some going as far as affirmative action. Thisessay will focus on childcare facilitation and parental leave.
The Importance of the Division of Domestic Labour
Growing numbers of couples across Europe espouse egalitarian views on the gendered division of domestic labour, including childcare and housework, as Bühlmann et al (2010) display. However,these views do not always translate into action. Across all European countries, though thecontribution of men has increased, women do more domestic labour. A number of theories, on boththe micro and macro levels, have been drawn up to explain this discrepancy. On the micro side,three main theories dominate. These are rational time allocation, relative resource bargaining andgender ideology (Geist 2005; Bianchi et al 2000).The first, rational time allocation, sees couples arrange housework based on the spouse who has thehighest earning potential investing more of their time in paid work and the other spending moretime on unpaid work in the home. If this was the only mechanism involved in the division of housework however, couples in which the woman earns as much or more than the man would seemen doing more of the housework. While this is sometimes the case, especially when the level of income is quite equal, Greenstein (2000) and others (Breen and Cooke 2005) believe that when thewoman has a higher wage than the man, there is a tendency for the man to do even less housework.
He conceives of this as ‘deviance neutralisation’
with regard to gender. Another element in thistheory relates to time. The partner who has the most time in the home, normally via working fewerhours, is rationally more likely to look after domestic labour.The second theory is relative resource bargaining. This approach frames the division of domesticlabour in terms of power and the pursuant struggle. The person who has the strongest economicposition is best positioned to negotiate the smallest share of the housework (Geist 2005).
3The third theory relates to gender. It postulates that every person has their own expectations and
preferences as formed by socialisation. What has been found is that the man’s gender ideology is farmore influential than the woman’s when it comes to predicting who does the housework
(Bianchi etal 2000). If the man is what Breen and Cooke (2005) term a
preferring to dohousework rather than remain single or divorce
then the housework is more likely to be evenly
divided, regardless of the woman’s opinion. The same situation arises with ‘hardliner’ men who
refuse to do any housework. Women are often less well equipped to leave the marriage
and sotheir values matter less. This also feeds into the relative resource bargaining theory. The next sectionwill address how states choose to respond (or not respond) to the issue of housework being
women’s work.
Different Approaches
To allow for a more revealing analysis of how different welfare states utilise family-friendly policy,some kind of typology is required. The best-known and most widely-used is Esping-
(1990) which identifies a Social Democratic, a Conservative and a Liberal form of the welfare state.This corresponds to the triumvirate of family policy models elaborated by Korpi (2000; cited by Boye2009) aligning Esping-
Andersen’s three groups
with the Dual-Earner, Traditional and Market-Oriented family policy models, respectively.The Dual-Earner family policy model, as typified by Sweden, Norway and Denmark, allows forreproduction work to be allocated to the state and supports female labour market participation andmale unpaid labour. There is less focus and assistance to women as homemakers. The Traditionalfamily policy model offers a strong reinforcement of the male breadwinner family, with low levels of dual-earner encouragement. The responsibility for reproductive work rests with the family unit.
Breen and Cooke frame this in terms of divorce law and economic autonomy though perhaps a more
‘emotional’ evaluation is required.

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