WOMEN, GENDER, & WORK: A SUMMARY

“No recovery without a she-covery”

This module has introduced you to the concepts in the study of women, gender, and work, including: the gender division of labour, the ‘second shift’, the family wage, paid and unpaid work, and emotional labour. We studied the ways Marxist, socialist, and liberal feminists think about work, with a focus on care work. This module also introduces you to neoliberalism, which is a way of thinking about politics and the economy that shapes contemporary ideas about gender and work because emphasizes self-sufficiency and market solutions. Neoliberalism is an approach to governing that says citizens should have minimal dependence on the state for forms of ‘private’ support, like care labour. Yet, as we learned in this module, because care labour is a necessity, Canada tends to depend on temporary foreign workers to provide care labour in Canadian homes.

In many ways, neoliberalism is the antithesis of social justice — the concept that runs through this entire course. Perhaps at its most basic level, social justice is about how we care for one another. That is, thinking about social justice involves acknowledging that we are not self-sufficient individuals, but members of communities who have obligations to look after one another. Neoliberalism, on the other hand, presumes that we are all individuals acting on behalf of our own self-interests. From a neoliberal perspective, we do not need the state to help create the conditions for fairness, equity, and inclusion; rather, we should put our trust in the market to determine who gets what. A neoliberal approach to childcare either views the family as primarily responsible for providing the unpaid work of childcare, which means care often falls to women who tend to earn less in the free market, or views childcare as a service best provided by privately-run businesses. From a neoliberal perspective, the market will decide how much childcare costs.

As feminist political-economist Armine Yalnizyan writes in an October 2020 article in the Financial Post, COVID-19 requires a fundamental shift in this neoliberal approach to childcare. Yalnizyan argues that the economic recession caused by COVID-19 shut-downs is actually a “she-cession” because women have been more likely than men to lose their jobs, and less likely to go back to work. During the first stages of the shut down in March, women, who are more likely than men to work in the service sector (such as retail and hospitality), were more likely to lose their jobs: women lost 62 per cent of the jobs during this period. Even though the economy gradually re-opened over the summer months, by September 350,000 jobs that did exist prior to the shut-down no longer existed. Of the 350,000 jobs lost, 85 per cent were women’s. Men have been more likely to go back to work. In fact, among men aged 25-54 even more men are working now than before the first shutdown. Partly, Yalnizyan writes, this is explained by childcare. Many parents’ jobs do not allow them to work from home, and childcare spaces are limited now more than ever. Even when parents can work from home, parents are struggling to balance the competing demands of working from home while parenting — a completely “untenable” situation for most parents. Without childcare options, women have been more likely to leave their jobs. For example, in September, Yalnizyan reports that “as an additional 54,000 men joined the labour market, 57,000 women left it.” The solution is simple, Yalnizyan writes: “There will be no recovery without a she-covery, and no she-covery without childcare.”

Discussion Questions

Share your reflections on Naomi Klein’s “Can a McJob provide a Living Wage?”. Klein published this article in 1996. Is it still relevant today? Why or why not? Define and apply the concept of neoliberalism in your response. Try to use one other key concept from the module in your response. Use the list of learning objectives as a guide. You should ensure that you respond to one of your colleagues’ posts.

Remember to check into eClass to submit upcoming activities and assignments, participate in the discussion board, and communicate with your instructor.

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