An Analysis of Jevons’ Theory of Women’s Employment Essay Name of of Professor Introduction The first two descriptions, that every woman is married or is to be married, and its direct implication that they are economically dependent on men, traditionally influence neoclassical accounts of women’s employment…
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On the contrary, men’s participation in the labor market has never been challenged by proponents of the neoclassical tradition. Such assumptions push economists to view women as dependent beings. This essay discusses Jevons’s theory of women’s employment, and the inherent flaws of his arguments. Overview According to Pigou, the primary basis of women’s work is the labor earnings of their husband. Likewise, Becker argues that women look for employment because of a ‘household decision’ (as cited in Gupta, 2000). The question is, does the decision to look for employment a personal choice of women? Apparently such an assumption prevents one from wondering why women keep on working when their salaries are very unreasonable; such a decision may reveal an unproductive use of their capabilities; and women are prohibited by market forces to maximize benefits or returns to their personal investment (e.g. education). The participation of women in the labor market is not viewed as a positive input to economic progress; it is rather seen as creating unfavorable outcomes for household work and national interest. Edgeworth cautioned that a huge population of women in the labor market would lead to “depression or debacle of industry”, a “debacle, ultimately ruinous alike to wealth and family life” (Kuiper & Sap, 1995, 19). However, one of the most fervent critics of women’s employment is William Stanley Jevons. He warns about the effect of employment on the household responsibilities of women and on rates of infant mortality. Paradoxically, the solutions to such dilemmas identified by the so-called ‘free market’ economists are largely influenced by draconian involvement in current labor market situations. Edgeworth supported the strengthening of barriers to women’s employment, and Marshall backed up the Factory Acts. Jevons was harsher, supporting the legalization of the total omission of mothers of children aged three and below from factories (Kuiper & Sap, 1995, 19-20). Likewise, where Pigou supported state involvement to remedy market malfunction in the employment sector, women were openly excluded. Specifically, Jevons argued that mothers of young children should be prohibited from working in factories, a rule which is thought to guarantee that children’s right and welfare were safeguarded. In 1882 Jevons called this subject matter ‘the employment of child-bearing women away from home’ as “the most important question touching the relation of the State to labor which remains unsolved” (Peart, 1996, 143). Because the participation of these women in the labor market discarded infants to “that scourge of infant life, the dirty fungus-bearing bottle” (Peart, 1996, 143), it was obvious that comprehensive policy was needed. The ills related to oppressive policy were in this case ‘overbalance[d]’ by the ‘infanticide’ that arose from unhindered action (Ege & Igersheim, 2011, 97): The objection may no doubt be made, that the exclusion of childbearing women from works in public factories would be a new and extreme case of interference with the natural liberty of the individual… But I venture to maintain that all these supposed natural entities, principles, rules, theories, axioms, and the like, are at the best but presumptions or probabilities of good. There is, on the whole, a certain
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