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versión On-line ISSN 1668-7027


MARTIN PADILLA, Mario Andrés Ernesto  y  ECHAVARRIA DE URIBE, Ninfa Stella. Narratives on family organization during male unemployment. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2017, vol.34, n.2, pp.275-294. ISSN 1668-7027.

Job instability, economic conditions and the active entry of women to the productive sector, have produced a tension with roles and functions traditionally assigned to men and women. This situation becomes more evident when a man loses his job. This, because he has identified himself as an external individual who provides home sustenance. This article describe narratives of married couples about family organization adjustment caused by male unemployment. Participants were couples living in rural zones at north from Bogotá, in which the man lost his job, and maintained this unemployment status for at least six months. The selection criteria used for this sample was being a couple in a current marital status (married or cohabitating for more than two years) with one or more children (at least one living in the same household). The method used in this case was qualitative with a social interpretative approach, including interviews and focus groups as recollection techniques. The processing strategy used was an analysis of the narrative discourse, were the main categories were as follows: (a) distribution of house work, (b) handling money and power, and (c) coping strategies. The results showed that, in general, an important aspect of the activities assignment within the family were misled by gender conceptions, creating some conflicts; in this sense, the inhibition of dialogues of the unemployed father, to distribute functions and assignments can be attributed to his discomfort. There had been no explicit negotiation about family organization and role assignment, reason why every husband assumed the task that they wanted to contribute with. From job loss, the man usually takes the individual decision to increase his participation in household chores, as compensation for the efforts made by his wife to be the provider; but the role of men in housework is secondary, and fails to fulfill the expectations despite his efforts. Most women in the sample agreed that their husbands should not take the leading role in household tasks due to the lack of skills to carry them. On the other hand, women who accept the leading role of man at home are afraid that they may use this new role as an excuse for not seeking work. When both worked, the man's salary was considered the principal household income and so it was used to pay the main basic expenses such as utilities, food, transportation, and mortgage or rent. If the woman worked, her salary was taken as a supplement for this expenses and the rest was used for additional costs like recreation, clothing. Before unemployment, decisions about money management were made by the man in his role of contributor; when the man became unemployed, woman acquire more power on decision-making, while men tend to withdraw due to his new condition. Therefore, we can conclude that the member of the family (couple) who receives a salary has greater decision power over the other on what has to do with important expenses. Couples develop coping strategies like increasing female work: three of the four women get a job to cope with the economic situation, and two women have doubled their journeys to increase revenue to restrict non-core expenses. Other strategies were to receive support from friends and extended family diminish costs. Finally, we concluded that in most cases the gender roles did not have a significant alteration because couples did not assume housework as a main function of men. The proposed strategies along with family and social support can be useful; however, the situation can improve itself if couples openly agree on the responsibilities for each spouse and there is greater flexibility in the role assignment.

Palabras clave : Male unemployment; Family organization; Gender roles; Decision-making; Housework.

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