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Silent partners: The role of unpaid market labor in families


  • Lisa Philipps


The term “unpaid market labor” refers to the direct contributions of unpaid family members to market work that officially belongs to another member of the household. Thus one individual may be construed legally as an owner or entrepreneur, but relatives may help out informally with business operations. Likewise, in corporate or public-service settings, certain employees rely on the unpaid help of an executive spouse or political wife. This paper argues that unpaid market labor is conceptually distinct from both paid work and unpaid domestic labor. Legal cases from Canada are used to illustrate the policy implications of this insight and how dichotomous thinking about the market and the family obscures this kind of work. The article discusses insights and challenges for feminist political economy in theorizing unpaid market labor.

Suggested Citation

  • Lisa Philipps, 2008. "Silent partners: The role of unpaid market labor in families," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 37-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:14:y:2008:i:2:p:37-57
    DOI: 10.1080/13545700701880981

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    More about this item


    Gender inequality; taxation; unpaid work; JEL Codes: D13; K34; O17;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • K34 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Tax Law
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements


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