The Future of Work-Family Policy: Is 'Choice' the Right Choice?
62 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2009 Last revised: 27 Apr 2010
Date Written: October 15, 2009
This article reviews the new, interdisciplinary book, Women and Employment: Changing Lives and New Challenges, which contains a set of empirical studies and policy proposals on work-family balance. This review uses the book’s research and analysis as a springboard for considering the role that gender equality should play in advancing a coherent work-family policy agenda, and more specifically, what “gender equality” means in the context of care work and labor force participation. Until recently, work-family discourse has been influenced by two dominant perspectives: one that seeks to achieve equal employment outcomes for women and men, and one that focuses on achieving equal valuation of unwaged care work with work performed in the paid labor market. In an attempt to bridge this divide and forge a way forward, some work-family scholars have begun to shift away from calls for particular substantive outcomes and towards a more process-based conception of gender equality. This new perspective focuses on equality of choice amongst a range of combinations of market work and care work. This review examines how the book’s empirical findings may advance our understanding of the existing constraints on “choice” in women’s and men’s work-family balance solutions, and it explores what the book’s analysis may reveal about the viability of an “equal choice model” as a path forward in work-family policy debates.
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