‘An insufferable burden on businesses?’ On changing attitudes to maternity leave and economic-related issues in the Times and Daily Mail

Eva Gomez-Jimenez

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

This paper analyses the ways in which maternity leave has been reported, within the broader context of economic inequality, in the periods from 1971 to 1977 and from 1997 to 2001, in the right-of-centre British national press. The aim is to answer the following research question: Has the representation of maternity leave changed in the right-of-centre UK press with the adoption of new policies, particularly in relation to economic matters, and if so, in what ways? Discussions of maternity leave in newspapers are identified by uses of the phrase maternity leave. Selected findings are presented from a corpus compiled for this study of news stories (641,996 words) in the Times and the Daily Mail, in the years in which maternity leave policies were changed in the UK (1973, 1975, 1999) plus two years before and after each of those years. Combining qualitative with quantitative methods, the analysis shows that maternity leave becomes monetized in the later period, from 1997 to 2001. The economic term that undergoes the most noticeable shift in frequency of use is afford, which is used five-times more frequently in the 1997 to 2001 period. A close reading of all those stories containing the term afford reveals considerable opposition in these newspapers to the introduction of new entitlements for women with new-borns, a hostility that was not apparent when improvements to maternity leave provisions were first introduced in the 1970s. This paper addresses the representation of maternity leave in the belief that this system benefit (like any other state-backed benefit in the UK system) helps in mitigating wealth inequality, and it is part of a larger study exploring changes in the way in which British newspapers have represented wealth inequality in the UK from 1971 to the present.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDiscourse, Context and Media
Early online date25 Jul 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jul 2018

Keywords

  • economy
  • wealth
  • inequality
  • class
  • maternity leave
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Corpus Linguistics
  • newspaper discourse
  • Times
  • Daily Mail

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