Women just want a job, not a career : a study of the relationship between women's domestic role and their participation in the labour force : a thesis submitted to the Department of Sociology, Massey University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts
During the twentieth century, the number of women in the labour force has risen dramatically. Since World War II the increase in labour force participation among married women has been particularly noticeable. However the participation of married women has fluctuated at times over the century as a result of national crises such as the World Wars and economic booms and recessions. Two labour market theories have been used to analyse women's labour force participation. The reserve army of labour theory as developed by Marx, is based on the idea that a flexible and disposable labour force is required by capital for capital accumulation. Although Marx did not specifically describe women as a reserve labour force, recent theorists have applied his theory to women in wage labour. The dual labour market theory likewise was not developed with women in mind but has since been used to analyse their labour force participation. It has been shown that women as a group of workers display similar characteristics to those attributed to secondary sector workers in the dual labour market, such as low wages and insecure, unstable positions and poor working conditions. Neither of the labour market theories questions why women as a group of workers comprise part of a reserve army of labour or the secondary sector of the labour market. In particular, these theories take no account of women's domestic responsibilities which considerably limit women's labour force participation. Feminist theorists however maintain that a theory of women's wage labour must include women's domestic role. This thesis examines how the labour market theories have been used to analyse women's participation in the labour market and reviews feminist theories which have linked women's domestic role with their position in the labour force. Employers hold a key position in the entry of women to the labour market. A survey of employers in the Manufacturing, Insurance, Finance and Business Services industrial groups in Palmerston North was undertaken to investigate employers' perceptions of the place of women in the labour force. Evidence from the study indicates that employers prefer women in positions which have traditionally been "women's work" and are reluctant to promote women because employers think the women's domestic responsibilities will preclude them from adequately carrying out their labour market obligations. In conclusion, it is apparent that employers do not perceive women as being career oriented because they believe women's domestic responsibilities will take priority in their lives. This belief effectively limits women's participation in the labour force and contributes to the continuation of sexual divisions in the labour market.