My friend from grad school Hanna Kleider recently published an article entitled Paid and unpaid work: The impact of social policies on the gender division of labour in The Journal of European Social Policy.
The varieties of capitalism (VOC) literature has offered one of the most influential explanations for cross-national variation in the gender division of labour. It argues that labour markets, which privilege specific as opposed to general skills, have a negative effect on women’s employment and impede an egalitarian division of household labour. This article revisits one of the most prominent VOC studies: Iversen and Rosenbluth’s empirical analysis of the 1994 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) survey on gender relations. I argue that a gendered welfare perspective provides an alternative and more compelling explanation for the same outcomes. In my empirical analysis, I re-analyse Iversen and Rosenbluth’s study using the more recent 2002 ISSP survey on gender relations. The empirical results lend little support to the VOC approach and show that a gendered welfare state perspective, measured using a novel summary index of defamilialization, explains the observed outcomes better. The evidence in support for the VOC explanation disappears when controlling for defamilializing social policies. This suggests that a previous VOC work on the gender division of labour has suffered from omitting crucial social policy controls. This article substantiates earlier critiques of VOC that have questioned its usefulness as an explanatory framework for gender-relevant outcomes.
I found out about this article right around the time I was getting back to this project. I immediately emailed Hanna to ask her for a copy and I really enjoyed reading it. In addition to Hanna’s specific findings, it also helped me start learning about the literature in this area. I’ve already started tracking down and reading some of the articles she cites.
(If you have access to gated journal databases you can read the published version instead of the version on Hanna’s website to which I linked earlier).