The importance of women's paid labour
Women at work in World War II
Year Published: 1982
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22819
An examination of women's paid labour, which was used as a cheaper labour force both prior to and during the Second World War.
The social invisibility of women's paid labour is used to justify paying women lower wages than men. Underlying the conception that housewifery and motherhood constitute women's primary role is the assumption that they are dependent on fathers and husbands. Thus when women enter the workforce they are not seen as needing the same remuneration as men because they are already 'sharing' a man's wage. Women as individuals are also rendered vulnerable to accepting low wages because they themselves see their paid labour as less significant than their primary task of home-making. As Juliet Mitchell says in Woman's Estate, 'Their exploitation is invisible behind an ideology that masks the fact that they work at all - their work appears inessential.'