Sunday, October 18, 2009

Splitting the numbers

A couple weeks ago I mentioned reading "Occupational Ghettos." I left off wondering what exactly would cause theoretical utopias in gender egalitarianism to be only on the surface. Why do these countries labor forces seemed to be so segregated at the manual labor level? While Charles and Grusky spend a lot of time working through case studies on the United States and Japan, the case on Switzerland I found the most intriguing.

Specifically, one point in Switzerland study I did not see addressed in the others was the discussion of nativity. I found this especially intriguing as I grew up in a state along the Mexican border where the question of who can perform a job often included the question of citizenship. While this discussion doesn't directly relate to the issue of immigrant workers in border states, Charles and Grusky do discuss the importance of countries with a history of immigrant labor forces. One interesting aspect is that while Switzerland's educational opportunities began opening up higher paying jobs to women, the jobs they began to leave were being filled with a largely male immigrant labor force. Additionally, nationalization efforts have pushed immigrant men out of a lot of government and service jobs that began to be filled by the native women labor force.

All-in-all this goes to show that sex segregation is not always driven by a more egalitarian movement. Switzerland's changes in the distribution of the work force were in some ways not driven by a policy for gender equality. Instead, the changes they saw were driven by alterations in the immigrant labor force. Rather than an increase in men in female dominated fields they saw immigrant men fulfilling previously female dominated jobs and instead of an increase in females in male fields they instead found a decrease in immigrant males. This purely by the numbers approach shows how not taking into account the different ways change occurs can suggest a change in society that may not be what it seems.

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