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Occupational sex segregation and part-time work in modern Britain

Blackwell, L. (1998). Occupational sex segregation and part-time work in modern Britain. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis investigates the relationship between occupational sex segregation and part- time employment. Occupational segregation describes the tendency for women and men to work in different occupations and it is important. It helps to explain gender inequalities including the persisting pay gap between women and men. Human capital theory, segmented labour market theory and the queuing theory attach different degrees of importance to individual choices and structural constraints in shaping occupational outcomes. They all leave key questions about the role of part-time work unanswered.

The role of part-time work in segregation in France and the UK is compared through an innovative application of segregation indices and curves, using 1991 LFS data. In the UK most women experience part-time work, particularly when they have young children. In France full-time, continuous employment is most common for mothers. In both countries women part-timers are more segregated from men than women full-timers. In the UK women working full-time and part-time are less segregated from men than their counterparts in France. Overall segregation is similar in the two countries because the UK has fewer women full-timers and twice as many part-timers.

The ONS Longitudinal Study reveals how shifts to part-time work affected women’s experiences of segregation over the 1970s and 80s. The strongly segmented nature of part- time work meant that these shifts often involved downward mobility into very feminised work. ‘Occupational recovery’ on resuming full-time employment was limited. Working in ‘male’ or ‘mixed’ occupations was associated with employment continuity. Fewer women in later cohorts faced the penalties of part-time work and intermittency, because of their stronger labour force attachment. However segregation remained high because of broader structural changes.

Analysis of the reclassification of occupations in 1980 raises questions about how women’s work is represented in official statistics. The continued bunching of women under a few occupational titles partly reflects their past and present subordinate status in society, rather than similarities in their work.

This thesis concludes that theoretical explanations must acknowledge that people make occupational choices within given structural constraints. In contemporary Britain, responsibility for dependent children places particularly severe constraints on women’s employment options.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Blackwell thesis 1998 PDF-A.pdf]
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