Ann Shola Orloff in her article, “Gendering the Comparative Analysis of Welfare States: An Unfinished Agenda*”, sets forth the essentialist character of the linkages between the systems of social provisions & regulations and gender as how imperative it is to internalise gender perspectives into the mainstream scholarship, which influences policy formations to profusion.
The author deploys the empirical method of analysis. Wherein, the observations are based on direct and indirect experiences. The article begins with the innovations, historical and evolutionary aspects of gendered notions as to how they have assumed variations in perception building. The analysis shifts to the endeavours of feminist scholars to integrate these notions, to challenge the masculinist assumptions and orientations in the mainstream scholarship associated with social policies.
The author bases her arguments by analysing number of feminist theories imparting it a smooth chronological account of the concepts responsible for attitudinal shifts in the perspective produced over the period of time as well lack of critical approach towards adaptation of the same in devising the social provisions and regulations. The usage of multiple instances at different time frames and spaces have been used decently throughout to convey the intention clearly.
The author focuses primarily on the context of “industrialised and rich democracies”, given the wide domain of literature, with respect to gender analysis, it offers. The article underpins the importance of emancipatory political consequences of welfare states. The changes in the state policies lead to a change in the configurations of the women employment preferences, patterns, and behaviours.
Though there have been considerations of gender insights into the mainstream to some extent, yet there is a long way to go. To substantiate the nature and extent of the incorporation, the work is laden with multiple instances and identification of key domains that require immediate attention, crucial to women’s welfare.
The author critically examines the flaws and simplistic adaptation of the earlier work in feminism into policy making, which though takes in feminist notions at its face value but fails to recognise the underlying reasons of a particular outcome. For instance the mechanical categorisation of women in terms of lifestyle preferences- into career oriented, home centred and adaptive, thereby it treats gender as an individual trait rather than ‘relational’ character of gender which are responsible for such preferences. It fails to consider the grounds from which such division arose, which were gendered division of labour, hierarchical relation between men and women; thus providing a critical approach to look beyond what is stated.
The writer deploys three tools -employment, gendered division of labour and caring labour to establish a relation between social policies and gender. There has been an association between care giving and employment, where former impedes the latter, as the care giving role is, as author points out, not natural but evolved out of societal necessity of gendered division of labour. Post World War II, the welfare state acknowledged the men’s role as breadwinner while keeping the women’s role as a housewife, as a consequence, the care giving role model of women strengthened. The author contrasts the period with the current scenario where the ‘maternalist’ attitude, govern the policies took a leap on to recognising a woman as an ‘adult worker in the family’, giving equal importance to the contributions to labour by both genders in the family. The reason cited for such a change has been a tendency giving in to the demands to the liberalism character of the market and not inherent intentions of welfare state per se.
The need of quality and decent paid care services is outlined to enable women’s work participation. The view is further substantiated with the example of Nordic countries where the care giving services is the part of public activity and much focus is given on the gender equality.
The author arrives at a critical observation that employment provision though occludes women’s vulnerability but does not annihilate it in total. An interesting concept of ‘motherhood wage penalty’ is adopted to substantiate it. The construct feeds on the existing discrimination of employers against mothers when it comes to promotion and acquisition of important positions, as well as preference of male workers to women, influenced by the assumption of women taking longer maternal leaves and thus the productivity is hampered. Though off late, the element of women participation on labour force has become a substantial constituent in policy initiatives, yet it remains unsuccessful when it comes to discerning the tradeoffs a women has to undergo in making such decisions. It is calls for, as stated, the requirement of social policies to factor in such preferential treatments. The telling example such an initiative is the provision of ‘daddy leaves’ offered in Denmark, during employment to mitigate the burden of double role of women being an employee and a caregiver.
The observation is very much similar to what is known as ‘glass ceiling’ prominent in current employment pattern.
The effective usage of regime analyses is advocated as a measure to weigh and appraise the impact of a policy on the existing organisation of roles and behaviour of men and women.