Small fraction jobs - is that what women health care workers want?
Research institute Norwegian Social research (NOVA) Oslo, Norway
Welfare services continue for the most part to be provided and organized within a national frame. The disproportionate participation of women in this field clearly suggests the consistency of gender in the professional process, and likewise, the economic and cultural positioning of paid caring work suggests the significance of class and ethnicity in this field. In the Norwegian context part time is the overall working structure, occurring in a most diversified pattern consisting of small, fractioned positions, spanning from 2,1 per cent of a full position to 4,8, 11,5, 17,2 etc, up to 70 or 80 per cent. Moreover, the recent trend is an extensive and increasing use of short term temporaries, also in fractioned positions. A full time fixed position seems hard to achieve. The social construction of a care worker is s a part time female with actual or potential family obligations - hence part time work is her favored option. This paper addresses the tension between women´s assumed preferences and the institutional practices of using part time workers. Should this practice be understood mainly as a mutual adjustment to gendered, social and cultural expectations, or does it rather reflect the needs of institutions at the expense of the preferences of many women? A new concept, involuntary part time work has emerged in the Norwegian discourse, which also challenges conventional explanations of women´s work. Furthermore, the working pattern seems to be related to professional positions, social class and ethnicity. Working class women are more exposed than nurses to work in very small fractions, and women and men of ethnic minorities who enter this field in increasing numbers, even more so. The paper first gives an overview of the present situation in Norway (which differs dramatically from the other Nordic countries), then goes on to analyses gendered implications of various law regulations regarding working hours, and finally examines the political rhetoric´s regarding women´s professional work in this sector.