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Work-Family Relations in Transnational Perspective: A View from High-Tech Firms in India and the United States

Winifred R. Poster, Srirupa Prasad
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2005.52.1.122 122-146 First published online: 1 February 2005

Abstract

This article presents a transnational analysis of work-family relations. Comparing three high-tech firms in India and the United States, we find that employees in each country establish different work-family boundaries. While those in the United States tend to prefer an integration of work and family realms through permeable boundaries, employees in India more often support a separation between work and family spheres through solid boundaries. Our analysis employs a “contextual” view of boundary formation. We argue that work-family relations observed in these U.S. and Indian firms reflect two important factors: 1) varying social contracts between workers, the state, and the private sector, which provide different types of support for families; and 2) varying trends in the persistence or reversal of historical, societal work-family divisions, which create pressures and opportunities either to insulate the household from the workplace, or to merge them together. In contrast to prevailing cultural explanations in the work-family literature that focus on culture or development, we argue for an approach that incorporates global power and inequality. We conclude by discussing implications for transnational debates about work-family.

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