“We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor,” said President Trump, in his inaugural address, referring to his plans to invest in infrastructure spending. As with many of his proclamations, it is yet unclear what this means in policy and practice but it is worth looking at some of the possible implications for gender equity.
On January 23, 2017, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker announced a new pilot program to require the state’s food stamp recipients who have children to work 80 hours per month for those benefits. The change would require approval from the Trump Administration, since federal policy currently prohibits states from imposing additional requirements on food stamp recipients. Unlike the Obama administration, which utilized those policies to protect and expand access to this and other programs, President Trump has signaled his intention to weaken those guidelines or eliminate them completely.
What are the merits of a program delivered through Unemployment Insurance? While the idea holds promise for allowing the US to finally join the rest of the developed world in providing wage supports to parents after the birth or adoption of a baby, a deeper examination of the proposed policy parameters and funding mechanisms suggests that additional work is needed to craft a national program that accomplishes key policy goals and minimizes unintended consequences.
Although President Trump has not yet proposed any specific policy plans regarding American safety net programs, he will need to build a collaborative, if not intentional, relationship with leading Republican officials such as House Speaker Paul Ryan in this policy area. Speaker Ryan’s signature interest focuses on safety net spending reform, and his 2014 Poverty Plan and his 2016 Better Way plan call for the creation of block grants: a strategy of welfare reform that we have significant experience with dating back to the 1960s. This history tells us that block grants are not budget neutral; people of color and those with low to moderate incomes are likely to be disproportionately negatively affected by block grants, and within these groups, those most affected will be single women-headed households with children.
With the exception of Ivanka Trump’s focus on paid maternity leave for working mothers, the Trump campaign gave little explicit attention to women’s issues or to the impact of his proposed policies on gender equality or equity. Within the new administration’s policy rhetoric on international development and trade, discussion of gender has continued to remain largely absent. Yet there are important reasons to pay attention to the gender dimensions of U.S. trade and development policies.
This section of the Global Policy Report will devote itself to identifying, unpacking, and analyzing these dimensions.
Trade issues represented a central pillar of Trump’s campaign promises, which emphasized re-negotiating multilateral and bilateral trade agreements and increasing tariffs on imported goods from specific countries (China, Mexico) as well as across the board. These promises appealed to voters who saw globalization generally and free trade deals in particular as detrimental to American jobs and workers. However, the new administration’s trade policy rhetoric rarely exhibits a gender focus and there has been little discussion of how proposed policies might impact women or gender relations more broadly, at home or abroad. This dearth of gender-based discussions of U.S. trade policy is alarming, as many of the new administration’s proposals could have differential gender-related effects.
As scholars of labor relations, public policy, and management, we acknowledge that changes in the workplace have always been intimately connected to developments at home. In this section of the Gender Policy Report, we will track how these inter-connected domains are affected by federal policy that impact Americans and those living in the United States. We are particularly interested in the ways federal policies shape equality and equity among genders. In this first post we aim to provide context of labor relations and family in the U.S. over recent history. In future posts, we will provide updated research that speaks to policy changes that impact these domains.
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