9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Gender and Care Building II, C4.01

Reconciliation of work and family as a new social risk: Child care policies and the politics of inclusion and exclusion in Finland

Reconciliation of work and family life has been recently discussed as a "new social risk" in comparative welfare state research. According to this literature, the social security systems of traditional welfare states, which were built during the post-war years to protect family (male) breadwinners against the "old social risks" (retirement, unemployment, disability etc.) are partly inadequate for dealing with new risks, resulting from complex changes in population structures, employment practices and family life.

Based on a case study of child care policies and their transformations in Finland from the 1980s to the 2000s, this paper critically reflects upon the fruitfulness of the conceptualization of work/family reconciliation as a new social risk especially in the Nordic countries, which are known for their established policies for combining (female) parenthood and paid work. Drawing from Foucauldian analytics of government as well as feminist theorising on citizenship, the paper asks how exactly is the "social risk" of work/family reconciliation defined, and managed in Finland during these three decades, and with what kind of effects. The focus is on two main categories of Finnish care leaves that deal with reconciliation, namely parental leave and child home care leave. The paper examines the politics of inclusion and exclusion inherent in these leaves, by analysing, first, the insurance vs. tax-based allowances tied to these leaves, and second, the criteria of eligibility for these leaves. The empirical material consists mainly of policy documents on the reconciliation of work and family, published between 1980 and 2008 in Finland.

Overall, the paper problematizes certain theoretical assumptions inherent in the conceptualization of work/family reconciliation as a new social risk, namely its generic notion of post-industrialization, its insensitivity toward questions of power, and its emphasis on income benefits at the expense of social services.