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Within household inequalities: policy implications Fran Bennett, Jerome De Henau, Susan Himmelweit and Holly Sutherland (with Sirin Sung) GeNet conference,

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Presentation on theme: "Within household inequalities: policy implications Fran Bennett, Jerome De Henau, Susan Himmelweit and Holly Sutherland (with Sirin Sung) GeNet conference,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Within household inequalities: policy implications Fran Bennett, Jerome De Henau, Susan Himmelweit and Holly Sutherland (with Sirin Sung) GeNet conference, 8 December 2009: Gender Equality in Paid and Unpaid Work

2 2 Outline and introduction GeNet project 5: Within Household Inequalities and Public Not mixed methods project, but multi-method, with joint working throughout Our research looked inside the black box of the household, to investigate the control, management and use of resources within (working age) couples, and to draw out the implications for public policy

3 3 Income inequality and wallet to purse policies Major driver of inequality of income within working age couples is differences in earned income Gaps in income within couples can be mitigated by the effects of taxes and benefits – for example, via : progressive income taxes individual earnings-replacement benefits But differences in work patterns, pay and care result in effects that are not symmetrical for men and women : gap is narrowed by more if the man has the lower income just as more women have begun to meet contribution conditions, they have started to be tightened (McLaughlin et al., 2002)

4 4 Income inequality and wallet to purse policies Reforms which could narrow income gaps and increase relative income receipt by women : e.g. increase child benefit: but this is for the child not the woman e.g. a more progressive income tax system: no use for non- earning women e.g. reconsider contribution conditions However, public policy often treats the distribution of resources within households as an equitably resolved private issue especially for low/medium income couples: assumption of jointness in the assessment of means-tested benefits also for low income partners in higher income couples

5 5 Obstacles to gender analysis Obstacles to gender aware analysis of income distribution include : Unit of analysis: a view of the family as an undifferentiated whole (unitary household view) Time: analysis of household at one point, not individuals over lifecycle (e.g. workless households / family-friendly tax) Policy: Main aim of income maintenance being increasingly tightly defined as meeting household need, rather than giving individual rights over the lifecycle

6 6 Gender analysis of household panel data Representative BHPS data: couples views over time could be matched to analyse common and differing influences on mans and womans satisfaction with household income Shared views – e.g. : Both partners were dissatisfied by man being unemployed Both partners were dissatisfied by woman being unemployed (though less so than by the man being unemployed) But there are also differences - e.g. : Although both were more dissatisfied by the mans unemployment than the womans – this was not to the same extent for the woman as the man Relatively each valued their own employment more Why? Unemployment reduced power within household?

7 7 Shared views reinforce inequalities Similar, though less extreme, pattern of shared and different views with respect to disability, particular employment statuses and domestic work: On average, the couple was more concerned by mans disability, less than full-time employment status and hours of domestic work than the woman's Relatively being disabled, not being employed FT or doing much domestic work led to less satisfaction with household income (and power over it?) Where do such shared gendered views come from ? Recognition of external constraints? Gender norms? If couples act on these shared views, they may increase immediate household financial satisfaction by reinforcing gender inequalities within and beyond the household

8 8 Policy implications In practice, decisions in accord with currently shared views can have deleterious long-term consequences for women (and perhaps men) To challenge gender inequalities and break cycle, economic constraints and/or gender norms giving rise to such shared views must be loosened Giving couples choice : is not the same as giving individuals choice may result in choices that are in the short-term interests of the couple rather than of the individuals within it, e.g. in case of divorce may be against womens long-term interests and autonomy A policys effects on joint household decisions may be more significant than its immediate intra- (or inter-)household distributional impact

9 9 Jointness in low-income couples This may be particularly important for poorer couples, for whom jointness may be more of a necessity Semi-structured separate interviews with members of 30 such couples to uncover within household processes and power relations did reveal clear loyalty to sharing finances (all in one pot) Possible drivers: largely long-standing relationships; children as joint project; put money together makes it stretch further? Joint bank accounts not good indicator of degree of jointness; but joint finances seen as symbol of trust?

10 10 But more complex picture But underlying this was a more complex picture – e.g. : - some clear gendered inequalities in access to/use of money - knowledge of family income was sometimes gendered - some differentiation of roles along traditional lines - women more aware of tensions between togetherness and individual interests and importance of money in own right Previous research confirms importance of source, purpose, recipient and labelling of income & how it is managed/controlled – our results also bear this out : - e.g. child benefit paid to mothers largely taken for granted; but some resented idea of main carer for child tax credit - e.g. commonly mans wage paid into joint bank account, but benefits/tax credits paid into womans own account

11 11 Implications for policy Some women in low- to moderate-income couples valued right to income that (e.g.) carers allowance gave them But felt exploited and under-valued (seeing it as a wage) May explain carers reactions to work focused interviews? Benefits often seen as belonging to/for family; but deprivation for women due to managing role or desire for independence Important to maintain and improve benefits for others (e.g. to meet costs) and social protection for individuals Negative reaction to main carer for CTC may help explain pressure for benefit splitting from separated parents with shared care for child/ren; & shows importance of rolesharing

12 12 Conclusions Implications fro policy oriented research : Analyse impact of policy on individuals where possible, not just (e.g.) net tax rate for families Examine tensions between policies based on individuals (e.g. labour market activation) and on joint assessment/ownership (benefits/tax credits) Consider impact of redistribution within household on roles and relationships, not just amount of money received

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