onsdag 20 januari 2010

Economist om förändrad könsarbetsdelning

om förändringen de senaste femtio åren i könsarbetsdelning i de rika länderna.
"The rich world has seen a growing demand for women’s labour. When brute strength mattered more than brains, men had an inherent advantage. Now that brainpower has triumphed the two sexes are more evenly matched. The feminisation of the workforce has been driven by the relentless rise of the service sector (where women can compete as well as men) and the equally relentless decline of manufacturing (where they could not). The landmark book in the rise of feminism was arguably not Ms Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” but Daniel Bell’s “The Coming of Post-Industrial Society”.

Demand has been matched by supply: women are increasingly willing and able to work outside the home. The vacuum cleaner has played its part. Improved technology reduced the amount of time needed for the traditional female work of cleaning and cooking. But the most important innovation has been the contraceptive pill. The spread of the pill has not only allowed women to get married later. It has also increased their incentives to invest time and effort in acquiring skills, particularly slow-burning skills that are hard to learn and take many years to pay off. The knowledge that they would not have to drop out of, say, law school to have a baby made law school more attractive.
One of the most surprising things about this revolution is how little overt celebration it has engendered.
many women are forced to choose between motherhood and careers. Childless women in corporate America earn almost as much as men. Mothers with partners earn less and single mothers much less. The cost of motherhood is particularly steep for fast-track women. Traditionally 'female' jobs such as teaching mix well with motherhood because wages do not rise much with experience and hours are relatively light. But at successful firms wages rise steeply and schedules are demanding. Future bosses are expected to have worked in several departments and countries. Professional-services firms have an up-or-out system which rewards the most dedicated with lucrative partnerships. The reason for the income gap may thus be the opposite of prejudice. It is that women are judged by exactly the same standards as men.

This Hobson's choice is imposing a high cost on both individuals and society. Many professional women reject motherhood entirely; in Switzerland 40% of them are childless. Others delay child-bearing for so long that they are forced into the arms of the booming fertility industry. Some choose not to work at all, representing a loss to collective investment in talent. But a choice must be made. A study of graduates of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business by Marianne Bertrand and her colleagues found that, ten to 16 years after graduating, just over half of those who had chosen to have children were working full-time. About a quarter were working part-time and just under a quarter had left the labour force. It also leaves many former high-flyers frustrated. Another American study, this time of women who left work to have children, found that all but 7% of them wanted to return to work. Only 74% managed to return, and just 40% returned to full-time jobs.

Even well-off parents worry that they spend too little time with their children, thanks to crowded schedules and the ever-buzzing BlackBerry. For poorer parents, juggling the twin demands of work and child-rearing can be a nightmare. Child care eats a terrifying proportion of the family budget, and many childminders are untrained. But quitting work to look after the children can mean financial disaster. British children brought up in two-parent families where only one parent works are almost three times more likely to be poor than children with two parents at work.

A survey for the Children’s Society, a British charity, found that 60% of parents agreed that 'nowadays parents aren’t able to spend enough time with their children'. In a similar survey in America 74% of parents said that they did not have enough time for their children. Nor does the problem disappear as children get older. In most countries schools finish early in the afternoon. In America they close down for two months in the summer. Only a few places—Denmark, Sweden and, to a lesser extent, France and Quebec—provide comprehensive systems of after-school care.

Different countries have adopted different solutions to the problem of combining work and parenthood. Some stress the importance of very young children spending time with their mothers. Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Hungary provide up to three years of paid leave for mothers. Germany has introduced a 'parent’s salary', or Elterngeld, to encourage mothers to stay at home. (The legislation was championed by a minister for women who has seven children.) Other countries put more emphasis on preschool education. New Zealand and the Nordic countries are particularly keen on getting women back to work and children into kindergartens. Britain, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and, above all, the Netherlands are keen on mothers working part-time. Others, such as the Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, Hungary, Portugal and South Korea, make little room for part-time work for women. The Scandinavian countries, particularly Iceland, have added a further wrinkle by increasing incentives for fathers to spend more time caring for their children.

The world’s biggest economy has adopted an idiosyncratic approach. America provides no statutory paid leave for mothers and only 12 weeks unpaid. At least 145 countries provide paid sick leave. America allows only unpaid absence for serious family illness. America’s public spending on family support is low by OECD standards (see chart 3). It spends only 0.5% of its GDP on public support for child care compared with 1.3% in France and 2.7% in Denmark.

It is difficult to evaluate the relative merits of these various arrangements. Different systems can produce similar results: anti-statist America has roughly the same proportion of children in kindergartens as statist Finland. Different systems have different faults. Sweden is not quite the paragon that its fans imagine, despite its family-friendly employment policies. Only 1.5% of senior managers are women, compared with 11% in America. Three-quarters of Swedish women work in the public sector; three-quarters of men work in the private sector. But there is evidence that America and Britain, the countries that combine high female employment with reluctance to involve the state in child care, serve their children especially poorly. A report by Unicef in 2007 on children in rich countries found that America and Britain had some of the lowest scores for 'well-being'."
Economist, "Briefing: Women in the workforce", 2 januari 2010

"The late Paul Samuelson once quipped that 'women are just men with less money'."
Schumpeter-kolumnen, "Womenomics", Economist 2 januari 2010

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