Unpaid Domestic Work and the Economic Crisis: Reinforcing or Diluting Gender Inequalities in Britain?

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Tracey WARREN , University of Nottingham, UK, Nottingham, United Kingdom
The recession of 2008-9 and the prolonged economic downturn have brought to the fore fundamental questions about the ramifications of the crisis for the working lives of diverse social groups. In Britain, a marked absence in the plethora of research projects exploring the work and employment outcomes of the crisis is explicit attention to ‘housework’. Whilst campaigning women’s organizations have made multiple predictions about the impact of crisis on the gendering of work inside and not just outside the home, there has been little empirical attention paid to domestic work and the crisis. The evidence that does exist is patchy, often anecdotal, and hints at diverse ramifications of the crisis. This is a key gap in our current knowledge. It is significant because domestic work talks powerfully to change, and continuity, in the work roles of women and men. Crises can offer valuable opportunities to re-evaluate, rethink, challenge and change everyday work practices. Attention to domestic work within the home is also pertinent in times of economic crisis because the domestic sphere can carry a very heavy burden, absorbing the fallout of crisis in multiple ways. The domestic sphere might support family members who have lost jobs or are economically insecure, both financially and emotionally. In previous periods of economic crisis in Britain, the hardship caused by economic crisis was not equally distributed by gender within the home. Rather, women bore the heavier burden of increasing domestic and caring work as they sought to support their families in troubled times. The paper draws upon large-scale survey data from contemporary Britain to consider the ramifications of the current economic crisis for gender inequalities in domestic work.