Variation within post-Fordist and liberal welfare state countries: women’s work and social rights in Canada and the United States
There is now a substantial literature forecasting the transformation of national markets into ‘global economies’, with the production of goods and services no longer tied to a particular geopolitical location. The seemingly ‘borderless world’ (Ohmae 1991) of late twentieth-century capitalism is said to have led to the undermining of secure labour contracts previously hammered out between employers and workers, the demise of labour unions, and a general decline of other Fordist strategies characteristic of industrial capitalist societies during earlier decades of the century (Krahn and Lowe 1998). We have now apparently entered a ‘new world of work’ (Barley 1996), a post-Fordist era, based on ‘flexible accumulation’, deregulation of markets, and fluid employment arrangements that include contingent, part-time, and part-year employment, selfemployment and structural unemployment (Jessop et al. 1987). Some observers of post-Fordism even predict the ‘end of work’ in the sense of secure employment with job ladders and fringe benefits (Rifkin 1995). The winners in this economic transformation are the small group of privileged ‘sky workers’ with scarce analytical and technical skills that command high returns on the ‘niche markets’ of the post-Fordist economy, whereas the losers are the majority of ‘ground workers’ with few or no marketable skills, who are assigned deadend jobs with little or no security, and who face the continuous threat of underand unemployment (Reich 1997).