136 Int'l Lab. Rev. 315 (1997)
Theories of Occupational Segregation by Sex: An Overview

handle is hein.journals/intlr136 and id is 325 raw text is: International Labour Review, Vol. 136 (1997), No. 3 (Autumn)

Theories of occupational
segregation by sex: An overview
Richard ANKER *
O     ccupational segregation by sex is extensive in every region, at all economic
development levels, under all political systems, and in diverse religious,
social and cultural environments. It is one of the most important and enduring
aspects of labour markets around the world.
There are several reasons to be concerned with occupational segregation.
It is a major source of labour market rigidity and economic inefficiency.
Excluding a majority of workers from a majority of occupations, as at present,
is wasteful of human resources, increases labour market inflexibility, and reduces
an economy's ability to adjust to change. With the globalization of production
and intensified international competition, these factors have assumed greater
Furthermore, occupational segregation by sex is detrimental to women. It
has an important negative effect on how men view women and on how women
view themselves. This in turn negatively affects women's status and income
and, consequently, many social variables such as mortality and morbidity, poverty
and income inequality. The persistence of gender stereotypes also has negative
effects on education and training and thus causes gender-based inequalities to
be perpetuated into future generations.
The segmentation of occupations on the basis of workers' sex is thus an
important labour market phenomenon deserving greater attention from policy-
makers and lay persons concerned about equality, efficiency and social justice.
This is demonstrated in the major new study undertaken by the present author
(Anker, forthcoming) - with international comparisons and experiences
providing especially valuable insights. The purpose of this article, which is
drawn from that study, is to review the principal explanations for the existence
and persistence of occupational segregation by sex. That is a necessary first step
towards understanding the phenomenon in order then to deal with it. This
article concludes with some observations on the relative value of the various
theories in explaining occupational segregation.
* ILO, Geneva.

Copyright © International Labour Organization 1997

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