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  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: July 2010

5 - Gender, family businesses and business families


In this chapter we turn to a less well-publicised social structure of accumulation – in all countries, but not least in India – the social construction of gender relations. This affects much more than the position of women in the economy, but we can usefully begin there. The economic position of women is institutionalised in many different ways: in the types of firms they mainly work for (petty, undercapitalised, illegal/informal, domestic), in the sectors of the economy where they are concentrated (notably agriculture), in the types of task they are assigned (particularly tasks with limited or no upward mobility, and those that require skills achieved with little or no formal education) and the types of contract they are given (casual). The proletarianisation of women has resulted in distinctive ‘segmented labour market opportunities, largely different work rules and means of control, patterns of participation, compensation for skills and education and lower pay’ (Albeda and Tilly 1994, p. 216). This affects the prospects for increasing female employment in secondary labour markets (that is, for services and clerical work and in the female professions such as teaching and nursing), and suggests the likelihood that increasing demands will be made on the State to regulate the terms and conditions of female participation. All of this narrative has been lifted from the ‘gender history’ of the pre- and postwar American economy. The eerie relevance of this to contemporary India testifies to the basic fact that patriarchal relations have always been a prominent feature of capitalism.