Making Women's Invisible Work Visible

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Maha SABAH, Van leer Institute, Israel, Haifa University, Israel
Hanna HERZOG, Tel Aviv University, Israel
Making Women's Invisible Work Visible

For many years, tremendous efforts have been invested in attempting to define what is meant by the term invisible work. Its scope has been expanded and refined to include unpaid care work and housework both in the private and public spheres. However, most research to date, however, has confined itself to one axis or another of invisible work (e.g. care work, housework, voluntarism). Based on nine group interviews -- eight of them including women from diverse social positions in Israel (religiosity, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status), and one group interview with Israeli men -- the current study explores first, a range of invisible work at home and in the workplace and the interpretations associated with this labor, by women and men. Second, it reveals how invisible work is seen as an obstacle to the equitable incorporation of women into the labor market.

The research rests on two theoretical premises. First, the examination of the creation and preservation of invisible work requires taking into account both the institutional-structural and the micro-interpretative levels. Exposing various interpretations is critical in comprehending what women think about their invisible labor and what influence they attribute to this work on various facets of their life. The second theoretical premise is that of intersectionality, since the perceptions and influence of invisible work on the status of women in the labor market may vary according to their different social positions.

The findings expose that although much variation exits among women from diverse social positions, the gendered patterns of invisible work cross along these social lines. We found that although the neo-liberal context puts much pressure and tension on women and men, interviewees hardly undermine the existing gendered and economic order, supported by the high value attributed in the Israeli society to motherhood and family.