Segregation complications

A powerful recent paper in Sociology by Jarman, Blackburn and Racko (for ref see below) raises some tough issues when it comes to thinking through the implications of gender segregation in occupations. (I’m grateful to Athene Donald’s blog for drawing it to my attention.)  Covering 30 countries, the authors show (I’m summarising, obviously) that the position of women is more favourable where segregation is high.

In the first place, men’s advantage on pay is less in countries where occupational segregation is high.  I knew that Scandinavian countries have low inequality but high segregation, as women work largely in personal services such as health and education. But the pattern extends beyond these countries. JBR summarise thus; “The greater the occupational gender segregation, the lower the disadvantage to women in terms of pay.”

This is enough to get the discussional juices flowing – what trade-offs does this result point to? But there is more. When it comes to the status of the occupations held by women and men, the results are equally if not more striking. They use data from 12 countries measured by CAMSIS (the Cambridge Social Interaction and Stratification Scale – pl don’t ask me…). Women, they conclude quite simply, have more attractive occupations (obviously in general, not universally). This is partly for historical reasons, as they have benefited most from the expansion of professional non-manual work. But the analysis shows that where segregation is high, this allows women more scope to develop progressive careers – even allowing for the fact that men have a better chance of getting senior positions in feminised professions.

This has major implications for the PP, which I’m still working through.  It  makes the discussion of ‘choice’ even more significant.  More on this later!

‘The Dimensions of Occupational Segregation in Industrial Countries’, Jennifer Jarman, Robert Blackburn and Girts Racko, Sociology 46(6) 2012.

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