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Gender differences in absence from work: Lessons from two world wars

Author

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  • Karlsson, Tobias

    () (Department of Economic History, Lund University)

Abstract

This paper traces the origins and early history of perceived gender differences in absenteeism in Great Britain and the USA. Among politicians and scholars, the problem was first articulated during World War I and reappeared as an issue of prime concern during World War II. The war efforts required mobilization and allocation of large numbers of women to jobs that had previously been done by men while maintaining high and continuous flows of production in an economy that was increasingly characterized by high capital intensity. The most common explanation of women’s higher levels of absenteeism was their double burden of wage work and unpaid household duties. Although researchers in the field were cautious to give policy recommendations, the studies on absenteeism revealed that ‘industrial fatigue’ could have negative effects on productivity and helped to motivate regulations on working hours. Studies on absenteeism also encouraged firms to professionalize personnel management and to reinforce apprehensions of differences between men and women as workers and employees. Some employers and other policy makers referred to gender differences in absenteeism to motivate wage discrimination.

Suggested Citation

  • Karlsson, Tobias, 2016. "Gender differences in absence from work: Lessons from two world wars," Working Paper Series 2016:26, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2016_026
    as

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    File URL: http://www.ifau.se/globalassets/pdf/se/2016/wp2016-26-gender-differences-in-absence-from-work.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Clark, Gregory, 1994. "Factory Discipline," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(1), pages 128-163, March.
    2. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
    3. Treble,John & Barmby,Tim, 2011. "Worker Absenteeism and Sick Pay," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521806954.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    absenteeism; gender; Great Britain; United States; World War I; World War II;

    JEL classification:

    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N42 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-

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