Eine umfassende Übersicht zu den Themen Armut, Verteilung und Gerechtigkeit
If the aim is for a fairer division of paid and family work between men and women, it's not enough to rely on parents' right to choose. On the contrary, the experience of the Nordic countries shows that childcare payments introduced under this slogan have promoted traditional roles.
Two researchers from the University of Oslo have recently examined developments in the reform of work and family policy in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway and they find that in the Nordic countries, as elsewhere, there are two opposing models of childcare. On the one hand there is the concept of paid and family work being shared equally, which among other things has encouraged the growth of public childcare. On the other hand there a more conservative model, which claims to promote 'parental choice'. This aims to give financial support to parents taking care of their children and in theory it is gender neutral, as parents themselves decide how they organise childcare within the family.
Experience with freedom of choice: The Nordic countries' current policies build on the reforms of the 1970s, which owed much to the social democratic governments of the time. They are based on the two pillars of paid parental leave and state-funded day care for children, whose introduction led to the employment rate for women of child-rearing age increasing to 80% or more. However, as long as the parents had a choice as to who would take parental leave, it was almost always just the women who took it. The researchers see a problem in that the concept of 'freedom of choice' is based on a false premise. It assumes that parents are completely autonomous actors, who can take their decisions freely in all circumstances of life. Economic and social constraints are ignored.
Leave for fathers - a concept that works: A real innovation was provided by the introduction of parental leave reserved just for fathers (if fathers don't take it is lost) -so-called 'father quotas'. This was first introduced in Norway in 1993; Sweden followed in 1994 and Denmark in 1997. Finland brought it in in 2003. Since then the Nordic countries have gone their different ways. Sweden extended leave reserved for fathers to two months, but Denmark abolished it shortly after its introduction. The result was that in 2004 leave taken by Swedish fathers accounted for 20% of total parental leave; in Denmark, in contrast, the figure was only 5%.
The researchers also suggest that these rules on quotas can also help to form new norms for masculinity, for example, that it is normal for fathers to look after small children. A glance further to the north, to Iceland, supports this judgement. There each parent can take up to three months' leave and can decide between themselves who takes another three months. The result is that leave for fathers accounts for 30% of the nine months that are available.
Money for childcare - mothers stay at home: In Finland and Norway there is the option of financial support for who do not use state-funded childcare. This is worth around €300 a month per child in Finland and €400 in Norway. However, falling, or at least stagnating, employment rates for women show that these arrangements result in women being more likely to stay at home. In Finland, in particular, women with children are now working less. Undoubtedly it seems that other factors, such as the difficult labour market situation, also influence parents' choices, but the result is that they opt for traditional structures.
Measurable successes: Experiences in the Nordic countries suggest that specific policies can produce changes in gender relations. In the view of the researchers, the Nordic policy of modernisation over the last 30 years has borne fruit in terms of high levels of female employment, relatively high birth rates and a growing participation by fathers in childcare. Concepts based on parental choice, on the other hand, do not have a convincing track-record. The introduction of cash payments for childcare has, the researchers conclude, acted as "a barrier to equality between the sexes."
Source: Anne Lise Ellingsæter, Leira Arnlaug: Family policy reform in Scandinavia - equality between the sexes and parental freedom of choice (Familienpolitische Reformen in Skandinavien - Gleichberechtigung der Geschlechter und Wahlfreiheit der Eltern), in: WSI-Mitteilungen 10/2007