From Margins to Mainstream: Gender Equality and Employment Regulation

Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Sara Charlesworth
Grant: 2011-2015 Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery


Study: This five-year project critically examines regulatory strategies dealing with gender inequality in employment by drawing on the Decent Work Agenda first proposed by the International Labour Organisation. The project has three major aims:

  • to investigate how gender inequality might be recast as a mainstream industrial issue;
  • to contribute to improved theoretical understandings of gender inequality and the role of employment regulation in addressing it through a micro-analysis of the Australian case in cross-national comparison;
  • to identify the main policy paths shaping regulatory responses to gender inequality in employment in the Australian and international contexts and provide practical policy alternatives for employment and human rights bodies.

The main empirical work of the project is focused on an analysis of the ways decent work and gender equality are framed in employment regulation and by key policy actors in Australia. Cross-national comparative analyses of framings and experiences in Canada, the Netherlands and the UK will also be undertaken. In addition, case studies of pay inequity, sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination will be carried out in order to locate these common expressions of gender inequality within a decent work framework.


Future development:

A series of interviews with key representatives of Australian government and non-government stakeholders in the fields of gender equality and employment regulation are planned for 2012. Interviews in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are also scheduled to be undertaken in 2012. Data gathered from the interviews will inform the comparative work to be undertaken in Phase Two of the project beginning in 2013.


Resources produced to date:

Charlesworth, S. and Heron, A. (forthcoming) 'New Australian Working Time Minimum Standards: Reproducing the Same Old Gendered Architecture?' Journal of Industrial Relations. Four key presentations by Sara Charlesworth have also been delivered: 'New Australian Working Time Minimum Standards: Reproducing the Same Old Gendered Architecture?' Women Work and Collectivism Symposium, University of Sydney April 6, 2011.

'Decent Work, Gender Equality and Paid Care Work' Invited Presentation to the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission, London 3 July 2011. 'Gender Equality and Decent Work: Does National Context Matter?' Our Work Our Lives Fourth Industrial Relations and Women Conference, Dili 1-2 September 2011. 'Towards decent working conditions for care workers in marketised community services? Decent working conditions: Regulation's dispensable ideal?' 2nd Conference of the Regulating for Decent Work Network, ILO, Geneva, 6-8 July 2011.

Areas of study and research

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