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Australian Workforce Changes After WWII Essay


Introduction

Despite the fact that many features of the traditional gender order continue to exist, some considerable changes in gender arrangements cannot be neglected. Keeping in mind certain periods of time, one can probably trace back numerous transformations in gender arrangements capitalism brought about. For instance, when discussing the period after the Second World War, one can speak about the so-called male breadwinner model. The term involves not only male dominance in family relations, but also a variety of social and cultural behaviours the discussed conception is based on.

The Australian male breadwinner model and its peculiarities

It should be noted, however, that the Australian male breadwinner model is of particular concern, as in the early fifties (the post-war period) the model was totally revaluated (Nolan 2003; McQueen 2003). Thus, the assumption that males should be regarded as the principal family providers was criticised. According to the traditional Australian position on the model, women had to be dependent upon their partners, and men had to earn money and endow their wives and children. Most of the married women did not work. The male breadwinner model was promoted by Australian authorities and propagandised in other spheres, including the country’s political and social life. Exclusion of females from the labour market was explained by the assumption that females were not providing for children and their partners. For this reason, women’s wages were much lower as compared with men’s incomes. In other words, one can conclude that women’s exclusion was regarded as the kind of protection in order to prevent women’s seeking a job (Murphy 2003). In spite of the fact that the Australian male breadwinner model was rather conservative, the country’s postwar period was characterised by a wide range of dynamic transformations on gender arrangements.

The Australian women’s movement and gender segregation

Taking into account the conservative attitude towards gender order and state economic intervention in postwar times, it becomes evident that global transformations in the Australian male breadwinner model were unavoidable. Of course, the expansion of community services area led to the reevaluation of the traditional male breadwinner model. Furthermore, the Australian women’s movement, which took place in the early seventies also impacted on the authority’s decision to adopt certain norms in relation to the growth in women’s employment. On the other hand, it seems to be obvious that the traditional attitudes to gender roles could not be completely eradicated. Thus, despite the fact that females entered into a labour market, the growth of women’s employment was probably aggravated with such phenomenon as gender segregation. The supposition is considered to be correct, as according to Cass (1998, p. 42) “the values of the male breadwinner model were deeply embedded in dominant Australian social and cultural norms throughout the post-war period and women remained primarily responsible for domestic labour and caring work”. Keeping in mind the above-mentioned circumstances, there is no wonder that women’s participation in labour market gave rise to females’ economic independence.

Global restructuring and its consequences

Political, social and economic transformations, which occurred in Australia at that time, cannot be ignored, as they affected gender relations at all levels (McDowell 1991). Generally, the consequences of global restructuring should be regarded rather ambiguously, as the traditional cultural norms were not eliminated, as some may think. In other words, restructuring affected both – the traditional male breadwinner model and women’s movement. For this reason, one can probably make a conclusion that the golden mean was finally found out; moreover, there is a strong need to rely on the data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as according to its readings, both – men and women were employed. As far as males were full-time employed and females were part-time employed, it becomes clear that males continued to remain the main earners and therefore, the Australian male breadwinner model was still important.

The Australian feminisation of work

The growth of women’s employment in Australia is mostly associated with such phenomenon as the feminisation of work. Thus, as far as most of the females were part-time employed, the labour market also underwent certain changes. First of all, it should be noted that the market started to provide people not only with permanent employment, and also with part-time engagement. The country’s rate of part-time employment was higher as compared with other nations. For instance, “only 20 per cent of Australian women with children are employed full-time compared to 40 per cent in the USA” (Bittman et al. 2003).

The overall effect of the Australian restructuring

Many labour market changes, which took place in the early seventies, eighties and nineties, caused investments inequalities. Generally, “creating a polarisation of households into work rich and work poorly” (Borland et al. 2001) can be defined as the overall effect of the Australian restructuring. Taking into consideration the extremely high demands of the modern business world, one can notice that both – males and females are on overtime.

The importance of socio-economic groups

Various socio-economic groups females belonged to were considered to be of particular concern, as in most cases employment changes depended upon women’s socio-economic positions (Probert 1996). Thus, higher unemployment rates among women were observed in low-status neighbourhoods. The men experienced the same situation. The outcomes of labour marker restructuring greatly affected gender order. However, it should be noted that women’s contribution to household income was significant because the male breadwinner model was not persistent anymore. That is to say the model became obsolete (Gregory & Hunter 1995).

Conclusion

Deep transformations of the Australian gender order were unavoidable, as a variety of social, cultural and economic changes required immediate reevaluation of the traditional Australian male breadwinner model. On the other hand, one can probably notice that the effect of the first wave of globalisation could not be neglected too, as the new demands of the world required urgent reconsideration of old conceptions in all spheres of life. Thus, the Australian government was also involved into the evolutionary process of the time and speeded up a decline of the traditional male breadwinner model (Baxter 1998).

References:

Baxter, J 1998, Moving towards Equality? Questions of Change and Equality in Household Work Patterns, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Bittman, M, England, P, Folbre, N, Sayer, L, & Matheson, G 2003, ‘When Does Gender Trump Money? Bargaining and Time in Household Work’, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 109, no. 1, pp. 186-214.

Borland, J, Gregory, B & Sheehan, P 2001, Inequality and Economic Change, Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Cass, B 1998, The Social Policy Context, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Gregory, R & Hunter, B 1995, ‘The Macro Economy and the Growth of Ghettos and Urban Poverty in Australia’, ANU Centre for Economic Policy Research Discussion Papers, no. 325.

McDowell, L 1991, ‘Life without Father and Ford: the New Gender Order of Post-Fordism’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 400-419.

McQueen, H 2003, ‘Breadwinning in the 1950s: A Response to John Murphy’, Labour & Industry, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 93-98.

Murphy, J 2003, ‘Reply to Humphrey McQueen’, Labour & Industry, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 99-103.

Nolan, M 2003, ‘The High Tide of a Labour Market System: The Australasian Male Breadwinner Model’, Labour & Industry, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 73-92.

Probert, B 1996, ‘The Riddle of Women’s Work’, Arena Manazine, no. 23.

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