Gender equality or employment promotion? The politicization of parental leave policy in Finland

Nygard, Mikael, Nyby, Josefine and Kuisma, Mikko (2023) Gender equality or employment promotion? The politicization of parental leave policy in Finland. Journal of social welfare and family law, 45 (4). pp. 326-343. ISSN 0964-9069


In 2022, a new parental leave system with equal leave rights for parents saw daylight in Finland. The road towards this reform was not entirely uncontroversial, and one stumble stone was different interpretations of the meaning of gender equality. This article contributes to the literature by analysing how seven political parties in Finland politicized the idea of gender equality and leave quotas during the 2010s. We argue that ideological factors delayed a reform of the leave system in a more gender-equal way, since left-wing parties did not only put more emphasis on gender equality and state-regulated leave quotas for fathers than conservatives, they also did so for somewhat other reasons connected with the Social Investment paradigm. Moreover, although the conservatives did warm up to the idea of gender equality on a general level during this period, and some of them started to support the use of leave quotas, providing some of the consensus needed for the 2021 reform, this did not alter their traditional views on the family and gender roles. Instead, the policy idea of leave quotas was reframed as an instrumental tool to achieve higher (maternal) employment, and only secondary as a tool for gender equality.

Gender equality or employment promotion (revised manuscript)_FINAL.pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 5 December 2024.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.

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