Forging a Gender Contract in Early National and International Labour Regulation

Leah F. Vosko

in Managing the Margins

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574810
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722080 | DOI:
Forging a Gender Contract in Early National and International Labour Regulation

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This chapter traces the prehistory of the SER at the national and international levels, demonstrating its gendered roots. Building on scholarship in women's history illustrating how early attempts to establish minimum conditions of work at the national level centred on ‘protecting women’, it traces the emergence of a parallel emphasis in international labour legislation. The selection of initial subjects for international labour legislation was framed by contestation between and amongst trade unionists, working‐class and liberal feminists, women social reformers, and philanthropists over whether to pursue ‘equal protection’ for men and women or protection for women exclusively. The earliest international labour regulations, devised initially by the International Association for Labour Legislation and developed subsequently by the ILO, nevertheless included sex‐specific regulations on maternity and night work. By cultivating a male breadwinner/female caregiver gender contract, such regulations helped lay the foundation for the SER as a normative model of male employment.

Keywords: citizenship; equal protection; ILO; International Association for Labour Legislation; international labour standards; male breadwinner/female caregiver contract; maternity protection; minimum wages; night work; protective labour legislation

Chapter.  10183 words. 

Subjects: Political Economy

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