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Technology, Institutions and allocation of time in Swedish Households, 1920-1990

Svensson, Lars LU (2010) In Économie et Societé XLIV(1). p.21-46
Abstract
The modernisation of Swedish households during the twentieth century prompted a considerable productivity growth in household production. This paper examines the association between this process and the allocation of female time in Swedish urban households during the period 1920-1990. Estimates presented in the paper suggest a minimum potential time reduction for a fixed volume of routine household work of about 25 per cent until the mid-1950s and 35 per cent until 1990. Much of that time was gradually transferred to the labour market, but no evidence can be found for an increase in leisure time. What has been termed a “Cowan paradox” appears in the Swedish data: the output of household services increased significantly with... (More)
The modernisation of Swedish households during the twentieth century prompted a considerable productivity growth in household production. This paper examines the association between this process and the allocation of female time in Swedish urban households during the period 1920-1990. Estimates presented in the paper suggest a minimum potential time reduction for a fixed volume of routine household work of about 25 per cent until the mid-1950s and 35 per cent until 1990. Much of that time was gradually transferred to the labour market, but no evidence can be found for an increase in leisure time. What has been termed a “Cowan paradox” appears in the Swedish data: the output of household services increased significantly with productivity-enhancing technical change. This was, however, the case only in households where small children constituted an impediment to labour market entry. Increased returns to market work induced women who did not face this restriction to allocate more time to the labour market from the mid-1940s, and at the same time raised the social status of paid work. This period also saw a drive to professionalize and rationalise routine household work, which may be interpreted as an attempt to increase the status of homemaking in order to match the economic and social upgrading of market work. It proved a vain effort. Its social base eventually vanished as a set of new formal and informal institutions associated with the family redefined the concept of “small children” and so removed the remaining barriers to gainful employment. The ultimate effect was to shift the position of homemaker from being a more or less permanent status of some women to a clearly temporary position of most women. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Family policy, Household technologies, Time allocation, Labour supply
in
Économie et Societé
volume
XLIV
issue
1
pages
21 - 46
publisher
l'Institut de Sciences Mathematiques et Economiques Appliquees
ISSN
0013-0567
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
723ce70a-73ad-47f6-8fdf-d75bd9fd9b07 (old id 1546073)
date added to LUP
2010-02-19 12:27:46
date last changed
2018-05-29 12:25:45
@article{723ce70a-73ad-47f6-8fdf-d75bd9fd9b07,
  abstract     = {The modernisation of Swedish households during the twentieth century prompted a considerable productivity growth in household production. This paper examines the association between this process and the allocation of female time in Swedish urban households during the period 1920-1990. Estimates presented in the paper suggest a minimum potential time reduction for a fixed volume of routine household work of about 25 per cent until the mid-1950s and 35 per cent until 1990. Much of that time was gradually transferred to the labour market, but no evidence can be found for an increase in leisure time. What has been termed a “Cowan paradox” appears in the Swedish data: the output of household services increased significantly with productivity-enhancing technical change. This was, however, the case only in households where small children constituted an impediment to labour market entry. Increased returns to market work induced women who did not face this restriction to allocate more time to the labour market from the mid-1940s, and at the same time raised the social status of paid work. This period also saw a drive to professionalize and rationalise routine household work, which may be interpreted as an attempt to increase the status of homemaking in order to match the economic and social upgrading of market work. It proved a vain effort. Its social base eventually vanished as a set of new formal and informal institutions associated with the family redefined the concept of “small children” and so removed the remaining barriers to gainful employment. The ultimate effect was to shift the position of homemaker from being a more or less permanent status of some women to a clearly temporary position of most women.},
  author       = {Svensson, Lars},
  issn         = {0013-0567},
  keyword      = {Family policy,Household technologies,Time allocation,Labour supply},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {21--46},
  publisher    = {l'Institut de Sciences Mathematiques et Economiques Appliquees},
  series       = {Économie et Societé},
  title        = {Technology, Institutions and allocation of time in Swedish Households, 1920-1990},
  volume       = {XLIV},
  year         = {2010},
}