Connecting Time and Space: The Significance of Transformations in Women’s Work in the City


Growing numbers of women with children living in western cities are entering the labour market, raising new questions about changes in the allocation of the tasks of social reproduction between household members and others and about the effects of the increasing time women now spend in the workplace. As Manuel Castells noted over 25 years ago, women’s unpaid labour has long been essential, not only in the domestic arena, but also in patching together facilities separated in space. The spatial layout of cities, with its specialized and segregated land‐uses, only works, he argued, if women’s unpaid labour is available to connect urban locations. But many women now spend many more hours in the labour market, replacing their former domestic labour with a range of commodified goods and services as well as by help from a range of related or unrelated others, sometimes but not always remunerated and/or by state‐provided or supported services. This article examines the consequences of the growth of women’s employment in Britain and the concomitant decline of the old breadwinner family, the growth of workfare policies that assume all individuals are available for waged work and the rise of commodified caring. The arguments are illustrated by empirical examples from interviews undertaken with middle‐class mothers in waged work in London and Manchester in the UK.