How Gender-Neutral are the Nordic Countries Really? Father-Friendliness in Leave Schemes for Families with Children

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Significant changes regarding work and family patterns in post-industrial societies have rocked the foundations of the gendered division of labour in family life. Nevertheless, the focus of attention has thus far mainly been on women's roles and entitlements, and has not implied a parallel focus on men's roles as fathers and caregivers. This article redirects attention to the role of men as fathers by exploring the economic incentives for fathers to take up parental leave in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden). It also highlights the great variety of circumstances relating to education and jobs among fathers. It constructs a more ‘realistic’ representation of the material conditions facing families with children through an in-depth policy analysis that takes into account not only public leave schemes but also the private layer of welfare entitlements for broad categories of workers, representing different socio-economic groups and employment sectors. The results indicate that there are different economic incentives for fathers to take up parental leave across countries - with Sweden being the most ‘father-friendly’ – as well as class-based and sector-based inequalities within countries. In-depth policy analysis of public and private layers of welfare entitlements reveal dissimilarities in access to participation in family life between fathers in the Nordic countries.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Security
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)403-428
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Nordic welfare states
  • gender equality
  • micro-simulation
  • occupational entitlements
  • parental leave
  • take-up by fathers

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