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The gendered nature of employment and insecure employment in Northern Ireland: A story of continuity and change

The gendered nature of employment and insecure employment in Northern Ireland: A story of continuity and change

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Author

Lisa Wilson

Summary

Evidence of the decline of the ‘traditional’ standard employment arrangement and the rise of poor quality ‘bad’ jobs has been escalating internationally and nationally. Nonetheless, despite much attention being given in recent decades to the changing nature of employment and job quality much of this discussion overlooks the interaction with gender.

Using data from the Northern Ireland element of the United Kingdom Quarterly Labour Force Survey, as well as data from the Northern Ireland element of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings this paper aims to examine, over a twenty-year period from 1996 to 2016 (a) changes and continuities in terms of gendered patterns in the nature of employment and job quality; and (b) trends toward the ‘feminisation of employment norms’, marked by an overall downward pressure on security of employment and job quality.

The results presented in this paper show that in many ways gendered patterns in the nature of employment and job quality is a story of continuity. Women remain more likely to be in insecure employment, work varying hours, work short hours, and dominated in particular sectors and occupations which are more likely to have low pay. Furthermore, the results of this study also show that higher levels of education narrow the gap between males and females in terms of likelihood of being in insecure employment, whilst having children further amplifies the differentiation.

There is also evidence of an overall convergence or ‘harmonising down’ of employment security and quality for both men and women, in a way that reflects the security and quality of employment that has typically been associated with women. All in all, these findings reflect what is referred to as a ‘feminisation of employment norms’ characterised by both continuation and change in the gendered nature of employment and employment quality. 

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