Abstract

Hakim C. Labour mobility and employment stability: rhetoric and reality on the sex differential in labour market behaviour. European Sociological Review 1996; 12 (1): 1-31.

Using national data for Britain and other industrial societies, we assess claims that sex differentials in labour mobility and employment stability have disappeared with rising female labour-force participation rates. Results for Britain show a continuing sex differential of 50 per cent in the standard measures of labour turnover and job tenure. These sex differentials are typical of the European Community and other industrial societies. Further, sex differentials in labour mobility and employment continuity are dramatically increased when the focus changes to movement in and out of the labour force instead of attachment to a particular employer. Women are two to four times more likely than men to enter and exit the workforce in a given period. Work histories display even more fundamental sex differences, and show that discontinuous employment has been replacing continuous employment and the homemaker career among women. The methodological implications for the analysis of cross-sectional and longitudinal data, and the substantive and theoretical implications for understanding women's employment are addressed. Qualitative divisions within the female workforce can no longer be ignored, as they impact on occupational grade, earnings and life chances, and can distort cross-national comparisons.