Labour market patterns in Western Europe and the United States in the latter twentieth century, and particularly in the past twenty-five years, have shown a striking resemblance in the overall increase in women's employment. Despite this fact, there are also large differences in women's position among those countries. Moreover, East European countries differ considerably from Western countries. Policy driven by Communist ideology forced women to enter the labor market, and differences within Eastern Europe seem to have been smaller than in the West. At this moment, there is a good deal of country-specific information on women's employment, but a cross-national comparison over time - one that compares women's employment in different institutional settings - is still lacking. That is the issue taken up in this volume, which contains comparative studies written by authors from the United States, Hungary, Germany, and the Netherlands. Three different perspectives are used. The first is the macro approach, which provides a thorough, focused understanding of the influence of the institutional context on women's work.
The second perspective, the micro approach, gives insight into the employ-ment behavior of individual women within a certain context. Finally, the combined macro-micro approach makes clear the extent to which differences in women's work can be ascribed to differences in their institutional context or to their individual characteristics. Implicitly, the book also addresses the methodological question, which of these approaches is best suited for comparative studies of this kind? Despite the convergence in the level of women's employment, the findings of these studies show that differences between countries are still substantial. These differences refer, for instance, to the number of hours women work, their earnings, and their job level. Children have an impact on women's work in all countries, but again, there are differences among institutional settings. In the East European and Scandinavian countries, women face fewer difficulties to combine paid work with domestic childcare. Women's earnings are also less affected by children in those settings where public childcare is widely available.
In some countries where public childcare is lacking, employers try to fulfill the needs of working mothers by offering childcare or parental leave arrangements. These are only a few examples of insights into differing circumstances in women's employment that are provided in this book, which make it a contri-bution both to gender studies and to studies of the sociology of work.