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Politicising parenthood in Scandinavia

Politicising parenthood in Scandinavia: Gender relations in welfare states

Anne Lise Ellingsæter
Arnlaug Leira
Copyright Date: 2006
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  • Book Info
    Politicising parenthood in Scandinavia
    Book Description:

    How to respond to the needs of working parents has become a pressing social policy issue in contemporary Western Europe. This book highlights the politicising of parenthood in the Scandinavian welfare states - focusing on the relationship between parents and the state, and the ongoing renegotiations between the public and the private. Drawing on new empirical research, leading Scandinavian academics provide an up-to-date record and critical synthesis of Nordic work-family reforms since the 1990s. A broad range of policies targeting working parents is examined including: the expansion of childcare services as a social right; parental leave; cash benefits for childcare; and working hours regulations. The book also explores policy discourses, scrutinises outcomes, and highlights the similarities and differences between Nordic countries through analyses of comparative statistical data and national case studies. Set in the context of economic restructuring and the growing influence of neo-liberal ideology, each chapter addresses concerns about the impact of policies on the gender relations of parenthood. Politicising parenthood in Scandinavia is a timely contribution to ongoing policy debates on welfare state models, parenthood and gender equality. It will be of particular interest to students and teachers of welfare studies, family policy and gender studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-159-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of boxes, figures and tables
    (pp. v-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. List of contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. ONE Introduction: politicising parenthood in Scandinavia
    (pp. 1-24)
    Anne Lise Ellingsæter and Arnlaug Leira

    During an historically short time span, family forms and family practices have been profoundly transformed throughout Western Europe. Falling birth rates, ageing populations, rising employment rates of mothers and increasing divorce and parental separation have all prompted questions about the future of the family institution. Demographic, economic and cultural change necessitates welfare state restructuring. Changing patterns of welfare needs and risks are giving impetus to a rethinking of the relationship between the welfare state and parents with young children. The ‘politicisation of parenthood’ forms part of wide-ranging, controversial political processes in which gender relationships in parenting and family obligations are...

  7. Part One: Politicising parenthood – legacies and challenges

    • TWO Parenthood change and policy reform in Scandinavia, 1970s-2000s
      (pp. 27-52)
      Arnlaug Leira

      Work/family policies to promote gender equality are widely regarded as a Scandinavian trademark,¹ and the institutional, universally oriented, social democratic welfare state is commonly presented as the driving force behind family change (Hernes, 1987; Esping-Andersen, 1999; Korpi, 2000). In the 1980s, the Nordic family was pictured as ‘going public’, the outcome of a grand political experiment to support new family arrangements. Mothers and fathers of the public family were both in paid work, while the ‘caring state’ provided day care services for children. Critical voices claimed that the welfare state was disrupting traditional family values and family solidarity (for example,...

    • THREE Nordic fertility patterns: compatible with gender equality?
      (pp. 53-76)
      Marit Rønsen and Kari Skrede

      Is there a possible connection between policies of parenthood and fertility? This has been subject to increasing interest over the past decades, both in demographic research and on the political agenda on ageing societies in the western industrialised world. The fertility development of the Nordic countries and the possible effects of the ‘Nordic model of family welfare’ have received considerable attention (UN, 2000a; Demeny, 2003). The Nordic combination of high levels of female labour force participation with relatively high levels of fertility, may suggest that a sustainable level of fertility is compatible with gender equality, and that family policies play...

  8. Part Two: Gender equality and parental choice in welfare state redesign

    • FOUR Nordic men on parental leave: can the welfare state change gender relations?
      (pp. 79-100)
      Johanna Lammi-Taskula

      Promoting fatherhood at the policy and institutional level can produce more symmetrical definitions of women and men as parents than will exist without such promotion. But does the politicising of fatherhood really ‘make men into fathers’ (Hobson, 2002)? Men are facing a challenge to increasingly share the responsibilities of family life at the same time as women have become an important part of the labour market. From the early 1990s, fatherhood has been a focus area in the development of parenthood policies. In order to encourage more men to take parental leave, individual and non–transferable rights for fathers have...

    • FIVE The public–private split rearticulated: abolishment of the Danish daddy leave
      (pp. 101-120)
      Anette Borchorst

      In 2002, the two weeks’ daddy leave in the Danish parental leave was abolished after an intensive debate in the media from March to July 2001, and at the same time the parental leave was extended from 26 to 52 weeks. The decision was passed by parties from the right-wing government, which had just taken office. Parental leave had not been placed high on the political agenda for many years, and the politicisation was triggered by the fact that the debate constituted a prelude to the electoral campaign preceding the parliamentary election in November 2001. Earmarking part of the leave...

    • SIX The Norwegian childcare regime and its paradoxes
      (pp. 121-144)
      Anne Lise Ellingsæter

      Childcare matters are increasingly central to contemporary welfare state debate and policy reform. The organisation of childcare affects the gender relations of parenthood, and boundaries between work and parental care are one of the most contested issues. Three family policy models with assumedly different implications for childcare and gender equality are commonly distinguished: states supporting the dual-earner family, states supporting a traditional male breadwinner family, and states leaving it to individuals to find private or market-based solutions (Korpi, 2000). Scandinavian policies are usually associated with the dual-earner family model, or at least as moving in that direction. National policy models...

    • SEVEN Parental choice and the passion for equality in Finland
      (pp. 145-168)
      Minna Salmi

      In international comparison, Finland is a country with well-developed policies providing support to parents who combine employment and family. This active parenthood policy has been seen as an indicator of a strong equality policy (for example, den Dulk et al, 1999) but the achievements of that policy have also been problematised (for example, Rantalaiho and Heiskanen, 1997) and even questioned as a turn to neofamilialism (Mahon, 2002). This chapter examines recent developments in Finnish policies of parenthood. How do the rationales behind parenthood policies change? How do the policy schemes meet the challenge of gender equality? Whose voice is heard...

  9. Part Three: Work, family and the welfare state:: redefining family models

    • EIGHT Woman-friendliness and economic depression: Finland and Sweden in the 1990s
      (pp. 171-194)
      Heikki Hiilamo

      Since the 1970s, a distinct feature of Nordic policies has been the primacy of gender equality as a policy objective (Nyberg, 2002; Björnberg, 2002). Family and parenthood policies have promoted opportunities for both parents to combine paid employment with joint responsibility for the care of their children. In the 1970s the proportion of women working outside the home increased steadily, and most children grew up with parents who shared responsibility for supporting the family. This marked a turning point also in the policy approaches to parenthood. Politicians justified the extensive investment in public day care with the fact that mothers...

    • NINE Working time and caring strategies: parenthood in different welfare states
      (pp. 195-216)
      Thomas P. Boje

      The aims of this chapter are to examine how parents manage their work and caring obligations, to identify which working and caring arrangements help parents balance their obligations, and how parents’ strategies are influenced by welfare state policies. Of particular interest is the impact of flexible working time as well as different types of care policies in creating a more gender-balanced division of labour in families. It is widely recognised that mothers’ involvement in employment and their caring obligations differ strongly, depending on norms and values as well as the profile of family and caring policies in different welfare states...

    • TEN Diverging paths? The dual-earner/dual-carer model in Finland and Sweden in the 1990s
      (pp. 217-240)
      Anita Haataja and Anita Nyberg

      In much feminist comparative research on welfare state policies, Finland and Sweden are seen as similar cases. Both countries have for a long time supported gender equality by policies encouraging employment for mothers and childcare for fathers. Both are welfare states that have moved away from the male breadwinner model and towards a dual-earner/dual-carer model. This is confirmed in a recently conducted state-of-the-art review of welfare states and motherhood, where the two nations were classified in the same category in all 13 studies that included both countries (European Commission, 2002). There are also, however, researchers who oppose the idea...

    • ELEVEN Lone motherhood in the Nordic countries: sole providers in dual-breadwinner regimes
      (pp. 241-264)
      Anne Skevik

      Lone motherhood is a key issue when exploring the politicisation of parenthood. The meaning of lone motherhood has changed quite radically from the early days of the welfare state. Two or three generations ago, lone mothers made up a small group of women surrounded by stable two-parent families provided for by the male breadwinner. As we enter the 2000s, high proportions of women pass through a stage as a lone mother, and the ideal of lifelong partnerships between male breadwinners and female homemakers has lost considerable normative power. This presents policy-makers with new challenges. The challenges are particularly acute in...

    • TWELVE Epilogue: Scandinavian policies of parenthood – a success story?
      (pp. 265-278)
      Anne Lise Ellingsæter and Arnlaug Leira

      Since the early 1990s the Scandinavian welfare states have pursued wide-ranging parenthood policy reforms. Welfare state investment in the early childhood years, based on core programmes instituted in previous periods, has expanded in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and public expenses for childcare have increased substantially. Policy innovations have been introduced; most notable are daddy quotas and more flexible uptake in parental leave arrangements. In general, childcare-related rights of parents and children have been strengthened (Leira, 2002). Paid parental leave has been prolonged. Cash grant schemes add to the entitlements of parents with young children in Finland and Norway. The...

  10. Index
    (pp. 279-286)