ABSTRACT

Introduction It is essential that men are involved in making the social changes needed to achieve gender equality. An important aspect of this is the development of policy measures to reduce gender inequalities in the domestic division of labour within the home as well as in social care jobs in childcare, eldercare and health. We start by reviewing men’s lower contributions to housework and care work. Such domestic inequality constrains women’s employment opportunities and men’s involvement in parenting and other aspects of family life. We discuss developments in reconciliation policy in European countries which are designed to enable men to play a more egalitarian role at home, including the recent political agreement at the European level to revise the Parental Leave Directive.1 We then turn to address men’s under-representation in female-dominated social care jobs. Gender segregated employment creates several labour market problems in this sector, as in other parts of the economy. Research has shown that gender segregation results in the under-utilisation of women’s qualifications and experience and the disproportionate concentration of women’s employment in the lower-paid parts of the economy, which is a key contributory factor for the gender pay gap (e.g. Bettio and Verashchagina 2009). Gender-segregated employment means that the under-represented sex contends with barriers to occupational entry and progression associated with gender role stereotyping and discrimination, and this inequality of opportunity can exacerbate labour shortages. These problems associated with segregation also apply to men’s under-representation in social care roles: gender stereotypes and prejudice are reinforced; labour shortages are exacerbated if men are deterred from entering social care jobs (e.g. in eldercare services); and service-users lack contact with men which may diminish the quality of the service (e.g. a lack of male role models among childcare workers for the children in their care). A gender-equal society would mean that men and women have the same opportunities and choices about career paths. Furthermore, according to Norwegian research, workplaces with a good gender balance have working environments which exhibit the least conflict or discrimination; thus contributing to higher levels of job satisfaction and well-being (Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion 2009).