“Women’s Work”

In an otherwise OK piece in the Guardian today by Guy Standing (here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/19/britian-labour-figures-hi… )the second paragraph stands out as being a particularly weak and cliched description of unpaid caring and domestic work, relying on the label “women’s work” – and without even inverted commas to signal that the author is aware of the old-fashioned and sexist terminology.

As originally rendered, the paragraph reads:

“The economist Arthur Pigou once said that if he hired a housekeeper, national income and employment went up, whereas if he married her and she did the same work, they went down. That aphorism still applies: labour statistics still disregard all the work done mainly by women. But women’s work is not the only kind of work that does not show up in the employment statistics released last week, based as they are on concepts developed in the industrial 1940s.”

My tweeted grumble about the language used has already drawn a response suggesting that – in fairness – the author had a valid point to make. I don’t disagree, but there are other, better ways to make it.

Here’s one possible way to make the same point while rejecting sexist cliches and placing the original quote in context.

“The early 20th century economist Arthur Pigou, once remarked on the economic anomaly of unpaid domestic work by saying that if he hired a housekeeper, national income and employment went up, whereas if he married her and she did the same work, they went down. Nearly one hundred years later labour statistics continue to disregard unpaid caring and domestic work, much of it still carried out by women. But unpaid caring and domestic labour is not the only kind of work that does not show up in the employment statistics released last week, based as they are on concepts developed in the industrial 1940s.”

There may be better ways, but certainly Standing has no excuse for writing as he did.

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