Unpaid Work, Power and the Context of Gendered European Welfare Regimes

Ruth Abramowski, University of Salzburg

How do power structures and empowerment determine the division of household tasks within couples in the context of different gendered European welfare regimes?

Over recent decades, processes towards gender equality are raising in most European counties. Implementations of gender-egalitarian family policies are increasingly en vogue. Nevertheless, comparing European welfare regimes also includes the dimension of unpaid work – especially since this aspect has not been taken into account for a long time in the welfare state research. The relationship between unpaid work and welfare is important for a “gendered Europe”. Despite the “Scandinavian dream” of absolutist gender equality, we observe a striking discrepancy between egalitarian attitudes and traditional behaviors, when comparing the division of housework in Europe. In all European countries the division of unpaid work is more or less traditional, however differences can be observed for five regimes: social democratic, post-socialist, liberal, conservative and latin rim regimes.

Rethinking the concept of Europe as a pluralistic “gendered Europe”, including the dimension of unpaid work and offering a new theoretical typology of power is the aim, this paper seeks to address. The assumption is that the division of household tasks is influenced by power relations, whereby power is regarded as a latent, dispositive, complex and social phenomenon, which makes a multidimensional approach in the sense of Amartya Sens “functionings and capabilities” and in the context of gendered European welfare regimes unavoidable.

Using data from the first wave of the Generations and Gender Survey and comparing European countries, the ‘Task-Participation-Index’ reveals little country-specific differences (the ICC suggests that about 6.1% of the total variability in TPI lies between countries); however, in all regimes women do more housework than men. According to the results from a two-level multilevel regression, especially non-traditional domestic labour is more accepted, the higher the political empowerment for women.


Why study the Division of Household Labour and whyis Power an appropriate Theoretical Background?

Over recent decades, processestowards gender equality are raising in most European counties. Implementationsof gender-egalitarian family policies are increasingly en vogue. Genderequality as a political goal is highly valued among couples. In accordance withthese developments, a number of researchers have prognosticate thatconvergences on education and employment histories between the sexes lead to ade-traditionalization in the division of housework respectively that there isan increase in an egalitarian distribution of domestic works. Nevertheless,when comparing the domestic labour in European countries, we observe a strikingdiscrepancy between egalitarian attitudes and traditional behaviors. Why isthere a striking discrepancy? The sociological research perspectives arecompeting with one another regarding the question of how homework-sharingarrangements develop in the course of time: neither traditionalization norde-traditionalization can be logically derived, mixed forms andcountry-specific differences have to be considered. Depending on the researchperspective, asymmetrical gender theories have concentrated on aprogressive traditionalization (the study on work and family identities(Bielby/Bielby, 1989), the gender display perspective (Brines, 1994)respectively the gender deviance neutralization (Schneider, 2012) and thehoneymoon hypothesis (Künzler, 1994)). Symmetrical rational-choiceapproaches, on the other hand, predict de-traditionalization processes.Economic resource theories (the economic theory of family (Becker, 1981), thestudy on intrafamily bargaining and household decision (Ott, 1992), the socialexchange theory (Blau, 1964) and the time-availability theory (Coverman, 1985))overestimated gender symmetric predictions that an increasing level ofeducation and employment activities of women causes an increasing involvementof men in domestic work. In both paradigms the process is largely assumed to belinear. So far, little attention has been paid to the issue of housework in a multilevelperspective. The contradiction between economic resource theories andnorm-oriented gender theories is taken as an opportunity to develop a typologyof power that puts the theories into a connection derived from the powerapproach and takes their context dependency into account. "BringingPower Back In" is the motto because the naming of power categorieswithin family sociology is increasingly neglected. The assumption is that thedivision of household tasks is influenced by power relations, whereby power isregarded as a latent, “dispositive” (Foucault 1978), complex and socialphenomenon, which makes a multidimensional approach in the sense of AmartyaSens “functionings and capabilities” and in the context of gendered Europeanwelfare regimes unavoidable. The research question is: How do powerstructures and empowerment determine the division of household tasks withincouples in the context of different gendered European welfare regimes? Furtherquestions are:a)   Which connection exists between power structuresand domestic job-sharing?b)  How far determine societal dimensions ofpower the division of household tasks?c)   Which connection exists betweenjob-participation and domestic housework?d)  How is the relationship betweenjob-participation and domestic housework developing in the course of time?

Data and Method

The analyses are based on theGenerations and Gender Programme (GGP). The Generations and Gender Programme isa panel survey, including a contextual database with macro-level informationand national Generations and Gender surveys (GGS; representative sample of18-79 year old populationwith one exception: in Austria, the respondents are between 18 and 45 years old)with micro-level information (GGP 2017).

In the analyses of the division ofhousehold tasks all European countries will be integrated, as far aspractically possible, for which the first and second wave of GGS data areavailable in order to develop an appropriate multilevel model for longitudinal,nested data. So far, only 14 countries (including some non-European countries)from the first wave are analyzed (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic,France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania,Russia, Sweden). The small-n-problem at the second level will be solved by amultilevel analysis of regional NUTS1-level in a further research step.Therefore, I must point out that the results are work in progress and, sincethe small-n-problem, to interpret with caution. Furthermore, the second wavewill be integrated to the longitudinal research design.

Results

Comparing these 14 countries, the‘Task-Participation-Index’ reveals little country-specific differences;however, in all countries women do more housework than men (cf. figure 1). Theintercepts vary significantly across countries and the ICC suggests that about6.1% of the total variability in TPI lies between countries. According to the firstresults from a two-level multilevel regression (cf. table 1), especially non-traditionaldivision of household tasks is more accepted, the higher the politicalempowerment (Level-2-context-predictor) for women. Level-1-predictors,which have a significant effect on the division of household tasks, are therelation of working hours between the partners, a married family status, smallchildren, the number of children and the duration of partnership.

Overall, the theoretical research gap and the firstresults suggest that a multilevel approach is needed.



Presented in Session 1104: Families and Households