Family Supports and Insecure Work: The Politics of Household Service Employment in Conservative Gender Regimes

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 1:50 PM
Room: F203
Distributed Paper
Karen A. SHIRE , Sociology, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany

In the late 2000s Austria and Germany introduced policies aimed at expanding the employment of household services in order to support families in their ability to reconcile work and family. Both sets of policies targeted the use of a particular form of marginal part-­‐time work, to make formal employment relations more attractive to households. The effect however, has been to constitute household service work as insecure low wage work, and to introduce new lines of inequalities between working women. While neither the Austrian or German reforms have succeeded in bringing informal work in private households into registered employment, they have strengthened the traditional path of women’s labor force (re-­‐) entry into part-­‐time work, while creating large differences in the forms of part-­‐time employment taken up by educated and less skilled women. These two worlds of women’s employment meet directly in private households, largely as the result of family support policies, and are one of the ways in which the modernization of conservative welfare contexts with strong male breadwinner models are creating new class-­‐based inequalities between women. The findings suggest the need to pay more attention to the employment conditions and new risks in drives to formalize and expand personal and household service work, now an explicit aim of European employment policy.