Gender and Occupation in Market Economies: Change and Restructuring Since the 1980s

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This paper compares employment restructuring, gender, and occupational change in Japan, Sweden, the UK, and the USA, since the 1980s. Its analytical framework is derived from feminist debates about the relative influence of political–economic skill regimes and cultural ideologies of gender on occupational sex segregation. In each country, the shift towards services has further concentrated men's dominance of employment in extractive and transformative industries. Pre-existing patterns of occupational segregation between the sexes have not however been universally reinforced. A degree of occupational upgrading has facilitated women's movement into a growing range of professional and managerial occupations, but the extent of economic opportunity for women is not a simple function of labor market economics. The social–democratic, egalitarian values and policies of Sweden, for example, seem to have offered greater economic benefits to women than the more individualized, liberalized labor market policies of the UK. In conclusion, it is argued that gender and markets are mutually constitutive; their evolution is not pre-given but subject to political choices informed by history and culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-110
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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