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Capitalism, Intersectional Inequalities and Social Tensions

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM (CST)

J.W. Marriott New Orleans, Endymion
Hosted By: Union for Radical Political Economics & International Association for Feminist Economics
  • Chair: Zhongjin Li, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Gender Dimensions of Platform Capitalism: A Study of Digital Labor Platforms in the Sector of Home Care

Paula Rodriguez-Modroño
University Pablo de Olavide


Despite women being increasingly engaged in labor platform activities, little research conducted to date has included a feminist perspective. However, the platform economy has direct impacts on the social organization of production and labor and is changing the main dimensions of the world of work with crucial gendered effects: access to work, occupational segregation and precarity, the organization of work and other working conditions. This study deploys a feminist economics approach to assess the gendered impacts of digital labor platforms in these three dimensions. To analyze the reconfiguration and regeneration of gender inequalities in the platform economy, we combine feminist economics’ work on care and social reproduction with feminist economic theory on labor market segmentation by gender and other intersecting inequalities. As a case study we examine digital platforms in the sector of home care and cleaning services, where women, particularly migrant women make up the majority of the workers. Through the analysis of in-depth interviews with workers, clients and managers of digital platforms in the care sector in Spain, our findings reveal the pervasiveness of gender inequalities and segregation in platform work and the highly asymmetrical model of gender relations and social reproduction. If domestic female workers have always been among the most precarious and least-valued occupations, digital platforms have managed to further increase the levels of female workers’ exploitation.

Gendering Displacement: Women’s Workforce Participation in the Aftermath of Forced Eviction

Arpita Biswas
University of Massachusetts Amherst


The relentless drive to demolish slums and redevelop freed-up land into more “productive” uses constitutes an integral part of the neoliberal capitalist project in Indian cities. Policy makers claim that these measures will not only revitalize economic growth but would also arrest multi-dimensional urban problems of poor-quality housing, unemployment, and segregation. They argue that the latter potential would be attained through relocation of the poor from “illegal” settlements to formally recognized localities. Critical scholarship on lived realities in resettlement colonies casts doubts on this distributional rhetoric of the demolition-relocation policy. Though enlightening and pertinent, most of the research in the area focuses on examining the policy’s impacts at the level of (relocated) families. In doing so, they treat the family as a unitary entity whose members are affected by relocation in the exact same ways. Feminist studies on displacement, however, underscore that it is a gendered process. Motivated by those and the branch of feminist literature that problematizes the family as a locus of both cooperation and conflict, this paper examines the effects of forced displacement on women’s participation in market work in India’s capital city. It asks how eviction from central city areas and relocation to far-off rural-urban fringes affect the workforce participation rate (WPR) among women belonging to the lowest echelon of the working class. Does the subsequent disruption of livelihoods and life-making processes push more women to taking up market work, or does it further hinder their WPR? What are the varied socio-spatial factors responsible for the observed outcome? The paper is based on nine-month long fieldwork conducted in one of the oldest and largest resettlement colonies (RCs) of post-90s’ Delhi and two inner-city slums which are located close to areas from where other slums got demolished in early 2000s with inhabitants relocated to the chosen RC.

Capitalism, Labor Market, and Social Tensions: The Role of Gender and Race

Lygia Sabbag Fares
John Jay College


Heleieth Saffioti (1934 - 2010) was a Brazilian Marxist Feminist thinker. Her first book “The Woman in the Class Society: Myth and Reality”, published in 1969, is considered a pioneer work on women and the labor market in Brazil, a bestseller at the time, and a reference in gender studies today. A shorter version of the book was published in English (Saffiotti, 1978). Saffioti’s work dialogues with the classic Brazilian thinkers such as Caio Prado Jr, Gilberto Freyre, Celso Furtado, and Florestan Fernandes. From the latter, she derives her views on how patriarchy operates differently for white and black women. As a Marxist, she developed a theory that she called ‘the knot’, combining gender, race (ethnicity), and class. Therefore, her approach can be compared to the work of the Social Reproduction Theorists like Nancy Fraser and Tithi Bhattacharya. “Natural factors – for example, sex and ethnic origin – function as safety valves by speciously easing the social tensions generated by the capitalist mode of production and by diverting attention away from society’s class structure towards the incidental physical traits of certain social groups.” (Saffioti, 1978, p. 38); ”(...) racial and sexual features may be used socially to mystify essentially economic phenomena such as the relative position of individuals in the system of production. This serves to block the perception of the system’s true nature” (Saffioti, 1978, p. 179). Based on these quotes, the article explores how capitalism utilizes gender and race to hierarchize the labor force to justify the position of workers in the production system and thus legitimize inequalities and alleviate the social tensions it creates.

Who’s at the Top? The Gender Wealth Gap from Bottom to Top

Eva Sierminska
Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research


This paper zooms in on the wealth gap at the top of the individual wealth distribution. We use SOEP survey data from Germany and a unique sub-sample, which over samples wealthy individuals in 2019. We estimate RIF regressions to uncover the varying importance of explanatory factors at different quantiles of the wealth distribution. While wealth differences between men and women are comparably small for the bottom 99% of the individual wealth distribution, large gaps exist at the top. Men in the top 1% own ca. 4.4 mio. net wealth, on average, and women ca. 2.7 mio. Euros. We show that men’s stronger investments in business assets and tenant occupied housing create the wealth gap at the top. Regression analysis reveals that these investments are strongly associated with men receiving higher inheritances and gifts during working age. In contrast, women tend to inherit after age 70. As a result, men appear more likely as self-made and women as heirs.

Gender Disparities in the Economics Profession: Problems and Solution

Marlene Kim
University of Massachusetts-Boston


Much research finds gender disparities in the economics profession, including publication rates, tenure rates, citations, and satisfaction in the profession. Women are less likely than men to feel valued and to be included socially and intellectually, and they are more likely to feel that they have been discriminated against. Only 16% feel their gender is respected. Sexual harassment in economics prevents women from participating in conferences and conference events, and the fear of being accused of sexual harassment leads to male colleagues excluding women from social events. The result? More women than men leave PhD programs and academia. Many suggest that implicit bias or differential treatment and institutional practices are factors leading to these gender differences. I interview women who have experienced such behavior and treatment and synthesize the research and theoretical explanations on this topic. I end with suggestions that can lead to more gender equity.
JEL Classifications
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches
  • J0 - General