This article explores how families with young children arrive at and live with different work–family adaptations within a welfare state that strongly supports the dual earner/dual carer model—that of Norway. It draws on a qualitative study among Norwegian-born and Polish-born parents, representing respectively ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ views on this model. The analysis aims at capturing the dynamic interplay between structures and policies, and everyday practices. We found that both Norwegian and Polish parents embraced the cultural ideal of the dual earner/dual carer model, but that their perceived scope of action differed. Within the Norwegian group there were differences related to class, however. Among middle-class Norwegian parents, the model was internalised as a moral obligation and part of identity, making it difficult to voice and cope with work–family conflict. Working-class parents in this group, varied more in their identification with this model. Across class, Polish parents, in contrast, used welfare state entitlements eclectically to shape new and more gender equal family practices in Norway, and to adjust to changing circumstances. The article illustrates how enabling structures may represent both opportunities for and limitation to individual agency, undermining the assumption of a simple ‘fit’ between work–family policies, work–family adaptations and gender equality in the family.
Bjørnholt, Margunn; Stefansen, Kari (2018). Same but different: Polish and Norwegian parents’ work–family adaptations in Norway. Journal of European Social Policy. Published online ahead of print 21 March 2018. doi: 10.1177/0958928718758824
The slides for my plenary address “Gender-blind or gender-based prevention?” at the Nordic conference “Preventing violence against women in the Nordic countries” on 8 March 2018 can be downloaded here. The conference was hosted by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Ministry of Children and Equality and marked the conclusion of the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017.
Bjørnholt offers a reflection on 25 years of feminist economics providing illustrative examples of how feminist academic critique, within and outside of academia, in combination with civil engagement has evolved, promoting change towards better economics, better policies and well-being for all. Mirroring the widening scope over time of feminist economics, Bjørnholt discusses the exclusion of care and other life-sustaining, unpaid work from systems of national accounts and efforts to make them count; efforts to achieve gender justice through gender responsive budgeting; the effort to bring society’s attention to the extent of domestic violence and its consequences; and understanding economics as social provisioning, which considers the responsibility to care for everything, including human rights and our shared livingspace Earth, when assessing the consequences of macro-economic policy.
Bjørnholt, Margunn (2018). How to make what really matters count in economic decision-making: Care, domestic violence, gender responsive budgeting, macro-economic policies and human rights. In Vincenzo Giorgino and Zachary David Walsh (eds), Co-Designing Economies in Transition: Radical Approaches in Dialogue with Contemplative Social Sciences (pp. 135–159). London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-319-66591-7.
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The aim of this article is to examine how family policies contribute to changes in family practices and towards gender equality in families. Empirically we draw on interviews with two groups of Polish-born parents: Polish parents who have migrated to Norway and Polish parents living in Poland. Norway and Poland are relevant cases for our exploration because they represent different types of welfare states, which have followed different paths towards their current family policy package. In our analysis of actual work–family adaptations we found a convergence towards gender equal dual-earner/dual-carer arrangements in both groups, although there were differences in the level of agency. Polish parents in Poland felt less entitled to use the measures available to them, and sometimes refrained from using them, compared to Polish parents in Norway who expressed a strong sense of agency in using family policy measures to create a good life in Norway and as part of a project of change towards more gender-equal sharing of work and care responsibilities. The analysis confirms the strong link between family practices and family policies, but also illustrates how the effect of policies on practices may be hampered or boosted by the wider historical-cultural context of the society in question. In conclusion, in analyses of the link between policy and practice it may be fruitful to distinguish between family policy packages—the concrete set of entitlements for working parents—and family policy regimes, meaning policies in their wider context, including migrancy as a mediating factor.
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Bjørnholt, Margunn; Stefansen, Kari; Wężyk, Agata; Merecz-Kot, Dorota (2017). The role of family policy regimes in work–family adaptations: Polish parents in Norway and Poland. Central and Eastern European Migration Review. doi: 10.17467/ceemr.2017.12
The research programme Violence in close relationships at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies has invited Martha Albertson Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law at Emory University, to speak on her theory of vulnerability in relation to research on violence in close relationships and sexual abuse.
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What is the practical and emotional reality of combining paid work and care in a highly developed universal welfare state with high levels of employment of women and strong institutional and ideological support for the dual earner–dual carer model? In this chapter we explore this question using Norway as a case, and drawing on qualitative interviews with both parents of young children and adults who have care responsibilities for older family members or relatives. Using the caringscapes/carescapes framework as sensitizing concepts, we discern two distinct contextual configurations or carescapes. For childcare, there is a standardised cultural script related to responsibilities and timing of transitions, which is supported by an extensive and integrated policy package. Caring for the elderly, in contrast, takes place in a weaker and more fragmented policy context. Caring for the elderly is not embedded in different policy-frameworks regarded as contributing to a higher aim, like gender equality or the best development of the next generation. Nevertheless, we also find that for parents of young children, living up to the new norm of full time work and institutionalization of childcare from an early age, raises new challenges and ambiguities.
Read the chapter:
Bjørnholt, Margunn; Stefansen, Kari; Gashi, Liridona and Seeberg, Marie Louise (2017). Balancing acts: Policy frameworks and family care strategies in Norway. In Tomáš Sirovátka and Jana Válková (eds), Understanding Care Policies in Changing Times: Experiences and Lessons from the Czech Republic and Norway (pp. 161–184). Masaryk University Press/Centre for Studies of Democracy and Culture. Sociology Series. Volume No. 17. ISBN 978-80-7325-424-7.
In January 2016 I join the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) as a research professor, to head a 3-year research project on intimate partner violence, with particular emphasis on gender, equality and power relations. The project is funded by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security and is part of a research program on violence in close relationships, which NKVTS has been tasked by the government with implementing.
This work addresses men, intergenerational transmission and social change, within the context of the change in the theorising and politicising of gender relations in the Nordic countries from the 1950s onwards. [click to continue…]
This edited volume maps new advances in theories and practices in feminist economics and the valuation of women, care and nature since Marilyn Waring’s groundbreaking critique of the system of national accounts, If Women Counted (1988). It features theoretical, practical and policy oriented contributions, empirical studies, and new conceptualizations, theorizations and problematizations of defining and accounting for the value of nature and unpaid household work, eco-feminism, national and international policy processes, gender budgeting, unpaid care and HIV/AIDS policy, activism and artwork, and mirrors the wide-ranging impact and resonance of Waring’s work as well as the current frontiers of feminist economics/eco-feminism.
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I am guest editor of an issue of the journal Retfærd titled Vulnerability as a basis for justice and equality in the Nordic countries, exploring the relevance and possible uses of the legal theorist Martha Albertson Fineman’s vulnerability approach in a Nordic context. [click to continue…]