Changes in the gender order - work/family change and policy reform in Scandinavia
Department of Sociology and Human Geography University of Oslo Oslo, Norway
During the latter half of the 20th century in the western industrialised world the gender order of the industrial era was crumbling, the gender-differentiated nuclear family gave way to new family forms, and, gradually, the arrangement between family, labour market and welfare state was transformed.
This paper examines the reconceptualisation and redesign of work/family policies that took place in Scandinavia from the 1970s into the early 2000s: a series of policy reforms introduced a renegotiation and redrawing of the boundaries between the public and the private - between the state and parents. The work/family policy discourse shifted to put the care of young children centre stage in policies advocating the dual aim of reconciling work and family and promoting gender equality. Increasingly, work/family policy came to include not just parental responsibilities but also the care-related social rights of parents and children. In legislation, the caring father became the companion parent of the working mother. - The paper analyses two waves of policy reforms in the 1970s and 1990s in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Focus is on three sets of policies directed towards working parents - namely the legislation of parental leave, state-sponsoring of childcare services, and institution of cash grants for childcare. In conclusion the paper discusses the interplay of family change and policy reform and considers the welfare state contribution to changing gender relations in work and family.