Address: King's College London
City: London, England - WC2R 2LS
Country: United Kingdom
Alice Evans researches inequality, social change and global production networks.
Class, Inequality, and Labor Politics
Gender and Politics
A contemporary challenge is inequality. This paper illustrates why ideas matter, and how they can change over time. Inequalities are reinforced when they are taken for granted. But this can be disrupted when marginalised people gain self-esteem; challenge hitherto unquestioned inequalities; and gain confidence in the possibility of social change. Slowly and incrementally, social mobilisation can catalyse greater government commitment to socially inclusive economic growth. This is illustrated with ethnographic research from Latin America, where income inequality has recently declined. Future efforts to tackle inequality might harness the power of ideas: tackling ‘norm perceptions’ (beliefs about what others think and do); publicising positive deviance; and strengthening social movements.
(2) Social Change
Although female labor force participation is rising across the world, men's share of unpaid care work has not increased commensurately. Why is social change so asymmetric?
Drawing on ethnographic research in Zambia, I argue that women’s employment is increasingly supported due to worsening economic security. By performing socially valued work, women are increasingly perceived as equally competent. But few people are exposed to men sharing care work, as this mostly occurs in private spaces. Accordingly, many assume that such practices are neither common nor socially accepted. These norm perceptions give men self-interested reasons to shun housework. These empirical insights are used from Zambia to theorise global trends towards gender equality: highlighting parallels in the UK and USA for instance.
These findings have been published in Annals, Development & Change; Geoforum; Gender, Place and Culture; Journal of Southern African Studies; Gender & Development; and Development.
In the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Alice argues that cities can catalyse gender equality because they: (1) raise opportunity costs; enable (2) exposure to alternatives; (3) association; and (4) proximity to services. Exposure is particularly important. People living in interconnected, heterogeneous, densely populated areas are more likely to see women in socially valued, masculine domains. Seeing women mechanics, breadwinners and leaders increases people’s confidence in the possibility of social change: inspiring others; catalysing further experimentation; generating a positive feedback loop.While cities are no panacea, they are accelerating progress towards gender equality.
(3) Global Production Networks
Alice explores how to improve wages and working conditions in the Asian garment industry. Rather than highlighting widely-recognised problems, she tries to understand progressive drivers of change – at local, national and transnational levels.
In ‘Patriarchal Unions = Weaker Unions? Industrial Relations in the Asian Garment Industry”, Alice illustrates how norm perceptions of acquiescent women and assertive men generate patriarchal and authoritarian trade unions. Feeling unheard, many women disengage from unions. This weakens the collective power of labour:
In another paper, Alice traces the drivers of industrial relations reform in Vietnam. She draws attention to: wildcat strikes; pressures from reputation-conscious buyers; trade deals; and foreign aid. While donor-supported pilots do not appear to have motivated reform, they are nonetheless important: providing a valuable space for reformists to explore new ideas; iteratively adapt; garner evidence of what furthers their perceived interests and ideologies; with which they can persuade anxious, conservative colleagues, so as to build a reform coalition. This study thus highlights wider opportunities for inclusive development, besides aid.