Lone motherhood- gender, class and welfare in transition
Syltevik, Liv Johanne
Department of Sociolocy University of Bergen Bergen, Norway
The experience of lone motherhood has been found very different for women from working class backgrounds compared with other women. This classed dimension of lone motherhood has been largely absent in the debate about welfare benefits for lone mothers in Norway. The main aim of this paper is to discuss how class is relevant for understanding lone motherhood and welfare state support in the 21st century, and the discussion draws mainly on a postal survey study with lone mothers with transitional allowance made in 2002 and the policy debates about these issues the last thirty years. The policy change in the Norwegian welfare state from the mid 1960s till today entailed an altered conception of the interrelations between gender, the labour market and the welfare state - basically shrinking the period it was possible to stay at home with your children as a lone mother. While lone mothers at the start of the period unquestionable was seen as a social category in need of support, it is not longer thought appropriate at the end of the period to support lone mothers in what is now seen as their old fashioned role as carers. In addition the emergence of the ideology of the involved caring father makes it seem unlikely/ unnecessary that lone motherhood should involve particular demands regarding care. However at the same time the dominance of two earner adult families has made the situation as a one earner household more economically demanding (as the one earner households have to compete with the two earner households on the housing market for instance) and in addition the increased dependency of the market highlights that lone mothers face different condition in the labour market. The paper concludes that the dynamics of family status, class, gender, labour market and the welfare state is important to understand lone motherhood today.