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Ute Klammer (Univ of Duisburg-Essen, Germany)

19 May 2016 @ 15:30


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19 May 2016
Event Category:

“Gender, employment biographies and EU employment and social policy strategies”


Within the European Union, a number of demographic trends such as low fertility, rising life expectancy and the aging of the population have widely been discussed. Looking at the labour market, it can be observed that unemployment, the rise of precarious jobs and the trend towards more discontinuous working biographies have been in the focus. These developments also raise new questions concerning social protection. Within the European Employment Strategy, targets for labour market participation of different groups of the population have always been a central point of interest, based on the assumption that paid work in the labour market is the best means to prevent poverty and to guarantee individualised access to social security.

But does this promotion of the so-called “adult worker model“ adequately take into account that other forms of work – in particular, but not only unpaid care work and household work – have to be done? Does it take into account that institutional frameworks as well as company strategies, among other factors, can hinder access to the labour market and career development for certain groups?  Are chances and “capabilities“ over the lifecourse (in a longitudinal view) adequately considered?

Taking up these questions, the presentation concentrates on the German case, focusing on labour market participation, gender arrangements and gender equality from a lifecourse perspective. Empirical results and institutional analyses from the first report on gender equality in Germany, prepared by a scientific commission chaired by the author, are being presented and discussed.  A conceptual framework for the analysis of men’s and women’s lifecourses is proposed, bringing together different factors such as the institutional framework, company strategies, individual values and the “linked lives“-perspective.  As it is argued, the German institutional framework as well as company practices currently provide ambivalent and contradictional messages concerning gender arrangements and female labour market participation.  The recent developments can be described as an “abolishment of the male breadwinner model from below“ – with detrimental effects on women who deviate from the norm (e.g. female breadwinners) or experience certain turning points such as divorce during their lifecourse.

The presentation closes by discussing some reform proposals that have been brought forward by the first commission on gender equality and some more recent proproposals, such as a new working time act allowing workers to adjust their working time to life course needs. It ends by reflecting the need to learn from these results for a gender and life-course sensitive European labour market and social policy agenda, as an important component of the currently discussed “European Pillar of Social Rights“.