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What is work and why should we care

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Birgitta Jordansson
Linda Lane
Publicerad i Department of Geography, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, 21 March 2018
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Institutionen för sociologi och arbetsvetenskap
Institutionen för socialt arbete
Språk en
Ämnesord care gender men Sweden work women
Ämneskategorier Sociologi, Historia


In modern societies, access to wage work has functioned as an indicator of and a platform for realising equality between men and women. Simultaneously, we have observed histrionic changes in the way we organize work, care, and domestic tasks. Unequal conditions for women and men in the labour market have been the focus of researchers trying to understand these changes. In this paper we take an alternative route, by interrogating “work” as a theoretical concept. We argue that “work” was gendered from the start and as such creates major challenges for societies striving to realize gender equality. For if productive work associated with what men do is “real work” and more valued than reproductive work associated with women, is gender equality achievable? Clearly, it will not be attained by women engaging in paid work “like a man,” for who then will care? We argue that to decode the complexities of work and family life in globalized societies we must pay attention to how work is conceptualized. Our aim is to highlight power relations that underpin the manner in which work, and specifically paid work is conceptualized and consequences of these conceptualizations for women and men in modern societies. Written from a Swedish context our review of attempts to ‘fit’ unpaid work into existing concepts of “work” reveals that a simple, non-reflective acceptance of an established concept risk ending up in a blind alley where unpaid work is re-evaluated, but without possibilities to affect either power relations between paid and unpaid work nor gender relationships between men and women.

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