Equality from Economics
where we keep you updated on news about parenting as it relates
to division of responsibilities, career versus home decisions,
work/life balance, and legislative and grass-roots movements toward
equality or better choices for families. We'll also throw in our
opinions of life as equal parents in a nonequal world, regardless of
what's in the news.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Equality from Economics
Ellen Goodman's most recent editorial in the Boston Globe is entitled The Curse of an Equal Workforce. Here, she muses on how the economic crises might force equality in the workplace in a powerful and unexpected way - not by improving the pay rate and job opportunities for women, but by slashing jobs held primarily by men. The country is teetering on an even split between men and women in paying jobs (right now, women hold more than 49% of jobs, and the unemployment rate is higher for men than for women), and could easily see a higher number of women in the workforce than men before the economy turns around.
Goodman continues by considering the division of housework and childcare labor at home, and how suddenly unemployed women typically pick up a huge amount of additional home labor while laid-off men typically do not. This scenario may be the result of women's jobs often being less important to the family paycheck than men's, but this line of reasoning may be going away. Says Goodman: "And while, to put it mildly, there's been a lot of tension in families where women work the double shift, it's also true that many women who earned less than their husbands made an internal calculation. Paid less in the workforce, they did more of the housework to make an "equal" contribution. How will this hold now?"
The editorial ends with an interesting prediction: "Every huge economic change like the one we are in has an unpredictable impact on society. We are about to see if men are shovel-ready to take on more family and household labor. There is nothing in the stimulus package on this matter, but we may be jump-starting the languishing conversation about marriage as that 50-50 proposition."
Economics may indeed drive marital equality, which might be a great thing. But I'm dubious that economics alone can make it sustainable - and desirable. This type of shift toward ESP is outwardly driven - in this case by the job market. Real ESP - the stuff that makes both parents happy - is inwardly driven instead. I think it is great that outward reasons to try equal sharing are increasing (although I don't wish joblessness on anyone), but I hope those giving it a try are also open to its tremendous benefits to the soul. I do have hope that men who find themselves at home and freed to handle the laundry and the daycare pickups will begin to learn that a job is not their identity, and that this turn of events could quite possibly be the best thing that has happened to them.
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