A Reversal of Fortunes?: Women, Work and Change in East Germany

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German unification brought fundamental, often traumatic changes for the people in eastern Germany. Women as a group were arguably more deeply affected by the changes than any other, and in one area in particular: that of work, which had far-reaching effects on them and their families' economic situation. Rachel Alsop critically examines the processes behind women's changing relationship to the labor market in eastern Germany following the collapse of state socialism and the transition to a market economy. By the 1980s women made up virtually half of the East German work force. The collapse of the GDR transformed the field of work, drastically diminishing the general demand for labor. Yet while economic and political restructuring reduced the volume of both male and female employment, it was women who bore the brunt of unemployment. In the immediate transitional period a re-masculinization of the workforce was evident, with women constituting the large part of the unemployed. Using an extensive range of both quantitative and qualitative data, the author explores the gender dynamics of the social, economic, and political restructuring of eastern Germany, thereby producing an important new context in which to examine contemporary debates on gender and work.