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Full Time Mothers

campaigning for real choice for families

Book Reviews

Family Policy, Family Changes; If You've Raised Kids You Can Manage Anything; What Mothers Do; Endangered; Why Love Matters; A Mothers' Rule of Life; Seven Myths of Working Mothers; Choosing to be different; Baby Hunger; The Miseducation of Women; Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families; Broken Hearts; Mother Love; The Smart Woman's Guide to Staying at Home; Ghosts from the Nursery - Tracing the Roots of Violence; Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century - Preference Theory; The Social Baby; Expecting Adam; Good Food for Kids; Access to Maternity Information and Support; Single Parents in Focus; The London Baby Directory; Marriage-Lite: The Rise of Cohabitation and its Consequences; Anything School Can Do You Can Do Better

 

Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century - Preference Theory

Dr Catherine Hakim

Policies for women should be based on women's preferences, not on misleading 'snapshots' from labour-force statistics.

So argues Dr Hakim in this detailed analysis of the choices women make- about careers, marriage and motherhood. Dr Hakim is Senior Research Fellow in Sociology at the London School of Economics, and has previously challenged widespread assumptions about the the desire of women to emulate men in their working lives.

Social and economic changes over the last thirty years have created new opportunities for women - but far from making them alike, the result is that their preferences have diverged. Dr Hakim's research shows that women tend to fall into three categories:

¥ Home-centred women who give priority to children and family life and prefer not to work - about 20% of women in Britain
¥ Work-centred women who give priority to careers - again about 20%
¥ Adaptive women who combine work and family life - about 60%

Too often policies for mothers are based on the work-centred 20%, who conform to feminist expectations. But this ignores the needs of the home-centred 20% - and often the adaptive 60% too, because many of them would prefer to work shorter hours or take less responsibility in order to give priority to the needs of their children.

The importance of 'preference theory' is that its use would enable policies to be based on women's preferences rather than superficial assumptions drawn from job figures. For example - funds are currently poured into daycare because many mothers work. This sidesteps the question of whether women would rather have the money to be at home. Because mothers are at work, it is assumed that women want to work. But where women's preferences are consulted, surveys often find that mothers of young children would prefer not to work, or to work shorter hours if they could afford to do so.

Dr Hakim considers a huge range of statistics, British, European and American, in her examination not only of women and work but also marriage choices and the impact of higher education. She finds that however high their qualifications, women still have a tendency to choose husbands who are more qualified/higher earning than themselves - thereby making it more likely that as wives and mothers they may be able to opt for reduced career responsibilities.

Statistics and surveys are examined in depth, showing how easily a false picture can develop and influence policy. A substantial section is devoted to the policy implications of Dr Hakim's findings and detailed, and very useful, international comparisons are provided. These show, for example, how European countries which favour income-splitting provide a more balanced choice for women and families.

Whilst it is an academic work, this book is also a good read - a fascinating insight into the lives of women today which goes below the surface cliches - and which is logically and clearly presented.

Do buy a copy - or order one from your local library.
Oxford University Press 2000 ISBN 0-19-924210-0