Women’s labour market (dis)advantage in Nordic welfare states

Keywords: gender segregation, comparative studies, women friendly welfare state, inequality

Women-friendliness has been described as one of the normative foundations of Nordic welfare states. Helga Hernes identified the Nordic countries as ‘potentially women-friendly societies’. She characterised women-friendly societies as ones that ‘would not force harder choices on women than on men’. Hernes also envisaged that women-friendliness should be achieved without increasing other forms of inequality, e.g. class inequality.

Publicly funded welfare services and policies that facilitate the reconciliation of work and family aim at promoting women's labour market participation. However, the policies that are perceived as women-friendly can also have unfavourable consequences for women themselves. According to institutional theories women in Nordic labour markets face more difficulties in their career progression when compared to their female counterparts in less regulated labour markets and less generous welfare states. Glass ceilings and glass doors would persist in Nordic countries due to family leaves and segregated labour markets. The hypothesis on women’s higher disadvantage in occupational achievements in Nordic countries has gained both support and criticism in comparative studies.

 In this thematic session, we are interested on women’s labour market (dis)advantages in Nordic countries. Furthermore we ask how gender segregation and welfare state policies interact to produce, maintain, challenge or change gender equality in the labour market in the Nordic countries and beyond. We are looking for comparative studies, as well as country case studies. This session welcomes both theoretical and empirical contributions that discuss the gender gap in work life from various perspectives, exploring the impact of horizontal and vertical segregation on gender equality outcomes, e.g.  are women in Nordic countries more disadvantaged in terms of career achievements, wages, supervisory and managerial positions, and quality of jobs? Is it right to characterize Nordic social policies as women-friendly and do they help or hinder in breaking the glass ceilings and glass doors?


The session is organized by Mari Teigen & Liza Reisel from Institute for Social Research, Oslo and Armi Mustosmäki & Tiina Sihto from Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Contact information:

Liza Reisel:

Armi Mustosmäki:

Session 22 Women’s labour market (dis)advantage in Nordic welfare states Files