the increase in women？s participation in the labour market over recent decades allows us to consider implications of changed situations not only within work but also on the margins of the labour market and when unemployed. this paper considers women？s coping strategies when unemployed in light of other roles that they might hold. by utilising the example of the formerly socialist, eastern part of germany, where women？s involvement in the labour market was encouraged and even enforced, underlying assumptions about how women cope with unemployment are analysed. the centrality of employment in east german unemployed women？s biographies results in responses to redundancy that differ from those in the west. it is suggested that the social construction of gender via work identities and the individual and social importance attached to employment are central when determining the responses and coping strategies of the unemployed. moreover, there are indications that alternatives to employment can include work based and non-gendered roles.