Ideals and practices of gender equality among parents in blue- and white-collar jobs: The role of the Swedish parental insurance
Swedish gender equality policy aims to promote an equal gender division of the care for children and opportunities to work. The parental leave has become more equally shared, with fathers using 29 % of the days with benefit in 2019. This can be understood in relation to more of the benefit being individualized. However, parents with high income and education seem to respond more to the policy incentives and share their parental leave more equally than those with low education. Do these differences depend on lower educated parents sympathizing lesser with gender equality ideals, differing material conditions rendering different possibilities to be on parental leave, or do ideals have differing meaning depending on social conditions? The project relates policy ideals of gender equality to how parents in blue-collar jobs perceive gender equality and fairness in family life.
The aim is to explore how one of the most important tools of gender equality policy: the paid parental leave, is perceived and used by parents with blue-collar jobs compared to with parents in white-collar jobs. Previous research has indicated a correspondence between Swedish gender equality policy and the living conditions and ideals of the higher educated, but has seldom tried to explicate the living conditions and ideals of the groups who do not share parental leave equally between the parents. The purpose is to fill that knowledge gap. Through repeated qualitative interviews with becoming and new parents in blue- and white-collar jobs we study how the paid parental leave is used, the parents’ ideals of gender equality and how these ideals are formed over time through parenting practices. Through a web-survey to approx. 5000 persons with LO- and Saco-occupations we study the prevalence of the identified ideals, and variations between and within the groups. The results can contribute to inform gender equality and family policies with a broad legitimacy, which avoid polarizing effects.