After the Family Wage: A Post Industrial Thought experiment (Analysis)

The post-industrial era saw shift in environment and notion of welfare state-Fraser elaborated this in his paper ‘After the Family Wage: A Post Industrial Thought experiment’. It was published in 1997 a time when the world’s socio-political setting was shifting from bi-polar political scenario to uni-polar scenario as socialism collapsed, economy had been experiencing slothful economic growth with exception in Eastern and far eastern Asian countries. But it was also shocked by a market collapse later on. The change compelled to bring in a social transformation and brought change in defining the notion of welfare state in a preoccupied family wage concept.

The usual family structure is-headed by a male who would earn a family wage having a fulltime wife and (perhaps) a mother too. The woman contribute in domestic works which is not considered in gross domestic product. But this concept is now challenged. Globalization and economic development have reformed the mental fixation about the ever standing ‘male headed bread earners’ notion. Though in the journal, the author says that unpaid household by women and male-dominant bread earning remain in the form of normative family structure in most of the under developed and developing countries, the actual scenario now is lot more different.

The reform in family structure was unavoidable with the capitalism being the dominant factor in economy. In the post industrialization phase of Capitalism, normative family structure has been going through a transformation. The norms of welfare state are under identity crises and now, characterized by the central assumption of labour market and family. Post-industrial phase has made the job sector much diverse and not entirely dependent on one bread earner and has encouraged women to participate in job market. Concept of Male breadwinner or female home maker has shifted from its original position. In addition, gays and lesbians have added a new dimension in the social and family structure. This structural transformation has introduced a new form of poverty & social insecurity. The traditional welfare state that was built on the notion of male-headed family is not well fit with this transformed society.

Feminists are more heard than before, in the context of post-industrial phase to emancipate an ideal structure of welfare state. Gender equity comes in the first place for deliberation in developing the thought of new welfare state.

The author talked about two models or scenario here. The first one is-Universal breadwinner model which support for promoting women employment. On the other hand, the second model-Caregiver Parity model support for gender equity chiefly by supporting casual care work. But in both cases the author failed to come up with clear guide line on how the women would achieve minimum qualification to avail the care from Government. Furthermore it can create voluntary unemployment in order to get the care grant. Above all the proposed guideline still suggests more women-like jobs- not being universal. So finding a way out for gender equity is quite far as the work condition is not entirely suitable for woman.

The cited postures (Universal breadwinner model and Caregiver Parity model) cannot be put up by the developing countries because they have lot other serious issues like political turmoil, poverty, internal conflict, food crisis and many more in hand where incorporation of women in the typical development process comes much later in chronology. Scarcity of capital makes both the model a stiff climbing implement in developing countries as people focus more on staying alive than being equated.

The author struggled to reach to a consent describing ‘equality’ and ‘difference’ from women perspective in the first part ‘Gender Equity: a complex Conception’. It appears to be a stumbling stone for the feminists to describe it from their own point of view because of the mental preoccupation of ‘male based norm’. The multiplicity will include some notions with ‘equality’ side of the debate as well as ‘difference’ side, thereby making the debate and contrast even complex. However, in the following points author came up with some clear way out on how poverty elevation is vital defining parity and the term ‘equality’. As described by Fraser, number of isolated, marginalized or stigmatized women, left alone children would increase and poverty reduction would bring significant advancement in reaching the equality. Next, Fraser has encouraged ‘anti-exploitation principal’ where a new source of employment would be generated so that left-alone women get a way of bargaining and keep them from being exploited by the rests. Another point the author characterised is about ‘respect’ which he described in another form. The notion of welfare for women, yet, does not confirm their respect and evaluation in the society rather in some case brings the opposite.

Then Fraser has focused on equality of wage with a mark that women in USA earn 70% of as men do with same level of workload and output. Inequality of wage between man and woman had long been in the root of the matter in feminism but till date a little could be done in this regard with some few exceptions. While men’s wage gets double after a certain time, women face a reduction in income and it leads them to a sustenance level of living standard after getting divorced. Another aspect that demands attention is ‘equality in leisure’. But without bringing the issues in table a little has been done to overcome the complexities.

A comparative analysis between two models was given later on, where different dimension and there contrasts were put into perspective. In both the models after a series of logical analysis author has ranked them based on previously discussed parameters and the outcome is as follows:

Principles Anti-poverty Anti-exploitation Income Equality Leisure-time Equality Equality of Respect Equality of Respect Anti-androcentric
Universal Bread-winner Good Good Fair Poor Fair Fair Poor
The Caregiver-Parity Good Good Poor Fair Fair Poor Fair

From the measurement it is reasonable that both model, if implemented, would bring improvement in poverty eradication and exploitation of women in society but either of the model fails to improve in equality, marginalization or androcentric attitude. The question remains whether the particular model is implementable and at what cost or at what extend? Both models demands a wide range of political-economic restructuring, including significant public control over corporations, the capacity to direct investment to create high quality permanent jobs. The parameters are subjective, i.e. ‘quality’ of permanent jobs is tough to define.

To attain inclusive gender equality both models are promising and can bring real change in women status in post-industrial era. Adaptation of the models depend on the range of trade-off a country is ready to accept. For instance if a country select the universal bread-winner model, leisure-time equality would be poor but it improves income equality fairly. So trade-off between income equality and leisure-time has to be made by the country. It is imperative that country would adopt that parameter which would have lower opportunity cost. We can make final remarks that Fraser put a praiseworthy effort in theorising a difficult notion of Feminism in post-industrial environment and also came up with a range of analysis that would assist the states if it is set to adopt any of the models in order to bring equality between men and women. After all, the wind of change is visible and quite certainly not ignorable.


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