Buying Women’s Work: Various Approaches to Transferring Childcare




Dang, Farrah B.

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This article employs theory and case-study methodology to examine variations on approaches to childcare that best enable women to join the non-domestic labor force. Employing women’s non-domestic labor is crucial to ameliorating poverty and increasing a country’s competitiveness. Yet, childbearing has been, and still proves to be, a keystone of labor division that hinders women’s autonomy and ability to fully contribute. The divisions between perceived public (non-domestic) and private (domestic) spheres enhance the gender role conflict, mirroring the Marxist concepts of class creation, recognition, and struggle for autonomy. As an oppressed class realizes its oppression and gains public visibility, it gains valuable political power. Supporting this claim are historic moments where labor pool needs softened gender role rigidity—where women were able to work outside the home, advances in gender equality movements followed soon after. Therefore, with a methodological framework built on the public/private rhetorical divide and Gøsta Esping-Andersen’s welfare regime clusters, this article determines which childcare policy configurations best supports female labor participation; side-effects of childcare policies are also noted. Social democrat approaches, such as Sweden’s, prove most effective, treating childcare as a very public concern deserving of strong funding and protective legislation. The conservative/corporatist countries of Italy, Spain, and Germany, influenced by strong religious tradition, uphold the male-as-breadwinner family model, thus discouraging women from work and having more (or any) children. In the liberal economic regimes of the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, childcare needs are left to the family’s discretion or private markets, which results in a you-get-what-you-pay-for system that places huge burdens on impoverished families. In the developed East Asian regimes of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, the mixture of strong Confucian family values and reliance on the private market and corporate social insurance schemes once again protects the male-as-breadwinner model; these countries currently experience the lowest birthrates in the world and rapidly shrinking taxation pools. Lastly, in the Latin American case studies of Chile and Uruguay, there exists a trend toward universal, public distribution of childcare services, but the lack of adequate public resources and parental leave laws overburdens mothers seeking to raise families and provide family income.



Child Care, Gender Role, Policies, Female Labor (Labour), Welfare Regimes, Economic