The labor force is often organized as if workers had no family responsibilities. Preschool-age children need full-time care; children in primary school need care after school and during school vacations. Although day-care services can resolve some scheduling conflicts between home and office, workers cannot always find or afford suitable care. Even when they obtain such care, parents must still cope with emergencies, such as illnesses, that keep children at home. Moreover, children need more than tending; they also need meaningful time with their parents. Conventional full-time workdays, especially when combined with unavoidable household duties, are too inflexible for parents with primary child-care responsibility.
Although a small but increasing number of working men are single parents, those barriers against successful participation in the labor market that are related to primary child-care responsibilities mainly disadvantage women. Even in families where both parents work, cultural pressures are traditionally much greater on mothers than on fathers to bear the primary child-rearing responsibilities.
In reconciling child-rearing responsibilities with participation in the labor market, many working mothers are forced to make compromises. For example, approximately one-third of all working mothers are employed only part-time, even though part-time jobs are dramatically underpaid and often less desirable in comparison to full-time employment. Even though part-time work is usually available only in occupations offering minimal employee responsibility and little opportunity for advancement or self-enrichment, such employment does allow many women the time and flexibility to fulfill their family duties, but only at the expense of the advantages associated with full-time employment.
Moreover, even mothers with full-time employment must compromise opportunities in order to adjust to barriers against parents in the labor market. Many choose jobs entailing little challenge or responsibility or those offering flexible scheduling, often available only in poorly paid positions, while other working mothers, although willing and able to assume as much responsibility as people without children, find that their need to spend regular and predictable time with their children inevitably causes them to lose career opportunities to those without such demands. Thus, women in education are more likely to become teachers than school administrators, whose more conventional full-time work schedules do not correspond to the schedules of school-age children, while female lawyers are more likely to practice law in trusts and estates, where they can control their work schedules, than in litigation, where they cannot.
Nonprofessional women are concentrated in secretarial work and department store sales, where their absences can be covered easily by substitutes and where they can enter and leave the work force with little loss, since the jobs offer so little personal gain. Indeed, as long as the labor market remains hostile to parents, and family roles continue to be allocated on the basis of gender, women will be seriously disadvantaged in that labor market.
1. Which one of the following best summarizes the main idea of the passage?
(A) Current trends in the labor force indicate that working parents, especially women, may not always need to choose between occupational and child-care responsibilities.
(B) In order for mothers to have an equal opportunity for advancement in the labor force, traditional family roles have to be reexamined and revised.
(C) Although single parents who work have to balance parental and career demands, single mothers suffer resulting employment disadvantages that single fathers can almost always avoid.
(D) Although child-care responsibilities disadvantage many women in the labor force, professional women (such as teachers and lawyers) are better able to overcome this problem than are nonprofessional women.
(E) Traditional work schedules are too inflexible to accommodate the child-care responsibilities of many parents, a fact that severely disadvantages women in the labor force.
2. Which one of the following statements about part-time work can be inferred from the information presented in the passage?
(A) One-third of all part-time workers are working mothers.
(B) Part-time work generally offers fewer opportunities for advancement to working mothers than to women generally.
(C) Part-time work, in addition to having relatively poor wages, often requires that employees work during holidays, when their children are out of school.
(D) Part-time employment, despite its disadvantages, provides working mothers with an opportunity to address some of the demands of caring for children.
(E) Many mothers with primary child-care responsibility choose part-time jobs in order to better exploit full-time career opportunities after their children are grown.
3. It can be inferred from the passage that the author would be most likely to agree with which one of the following statements about working fathers in two-parent families?
(A) They are equally burdened by the employment disadvantages placed upon all parents-male and female-in the labor market.
(B) They are so absorbed in their jobs that they often do not see the injustice going on around them.
(C) They are shielded by the traditional allocation of family roles from many of the pressures associated with child-rearing responsibilities.
(D) They help compound the inequities in the labor market by keeping women form competing with men for career opportunities.
(E) They are responsible for many of the problems of working mothers because of their insistence on traditional roles in the family.
4. Of the following, which one would the author most likely say is the most troublesome barrier facing working parents with primary child-care responsibility?
(A) the lack of full-time jobs open to women
(B) the inflexibility of work schedules
(C) the low wages of part-time employment
(D) the limited advancement opportunities for nonprofessional employees
(E) the practice of allocating responsibilities in the workplace on the basis of gender
5. The passage suggests that day care is at best a limited solution to the pressures associated with child rearing for all of the following reasons EXCEPT:
(A) Even the best day care available cannot guarantee that children will have meaningful time with their parents.
(B) Some parents cannot afford day-care services.
(C) Working parents sometimes have difficulty finding suitable day care for their children.
(D) Parents who send their children to day care still need to provide care for their children during vacations.
(E) Even children who are in day care may have to stay home when they are sick.
6. According to the passage, many working parents may be forced to make any of the following types of career decisions EXCEPT
(A) declining professional positions for nonprofessional ones, which typically have less conventional work schedules
(B) accepting part-time employment rather than full-time employment
(C) taking jobs with limited responsibility, and thus more limited career opportunities, in order to have a more flexible schedule
(D) pursuing career specializations that allow them to control their work schedules instead of pursuing a more desirable specialization in the same field
(E) limiting the career potential of one parent, often the mother, who assumes greater child-care responsibility
7. Which one of the following statements would most appropriately continue the discussion at the end of the passage?
(A) At the same time, most men will remain better able to enjoy the career and salary opportunities offered by the labor market.
(B) Of course, men who are married to working mothers know of these employment barriers but seem unwilling to do anything about them.
(C) On the other hand, salary levels may become more equitable between men and women even if the other career opportunities remain more accessible to men than to women.
(D) On the contrary, men with primary child-rearing responsibilities will continue to enjoy more advantages in the workplace than their female counterparts.
(E) Thus, institutions in society that favor men over women will continue to widen the gap between the career opportunities available for men and for women.