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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
View the documentILO Publications
View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
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View the documentDisabilities, persons with
View the documentDisciplinary action
View the documentDiscrimination
View the documentDismissal (termination of employment)
View the documentDivision of labour
View the documentDomestic workers
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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Division of labour

Life is generally organized around an implicit" social contract". Two of its components, the gender contract and the employment contract, define the current division of family and labour market roles. Within the "gender contract", women assume the bulk of family care and domestic functions, while men are ascribed primary responsibility for the family's economic or financial well-being. The "employment contract" reinforces this division of labour by defining as its norm the sole breadwinner in continuous, full-time, lifelong employment. The social contract conflicts with the new reality of men's and women's lives.

The division of labour is, from an economist's viewpoint, the process whereby workers are allocated to the activity in which they are the most productive. It may be based on:

• technical characteristics, when a single production process is broken down into its constituent parts, each part being performed by a different person or machine; or

• social characteristics, when people are allocated to specific tasks on the basis of their physical or social characteristics, such as age, sex, race, religion, ethnic origin or social class.

The division of labour by gender thus refers primarily to the segregation of paid and unpaid work between women and men in private and public life. This division reflects the traditional division of women's and men's role in society, which results in women's work being often invisible and therefore undervalued in national accounts, and under-represented in the labour market.

→ see also Occupational segregation

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