Chapter 2: Workplace flexibility and the dilemmas of family-friendly choice: a new perspective on the puzzling gender inequality in Sweden
Open access

Due to an extensive family policy, Swedish women have been integrated into the labour market to an internationally high degree. At the same time, the inequalities between men and women in wages and careers appear increasingly puzzling. To further understand such disparities, we should consider how labour market flexibilization has changed the ‘rules of the game’ since the 1990s. Using the example of Sweden, we argue that even allegedly employee-friendly forms of flexibility can discriminate against women and provide a barrier to equality in the dual-earner society. Based on previous research and new findings, we show that flexible scheduling and functional flexibility (proxied by on-the-job training requirements) present mothers with new dilemmas and widen the gaps between women with higher and lower education. In Europe, family policies are widely discussed as a means of increasing female labour force participation. However, to better understand how gender inequalities are sustained and reshaped, also the restructuring of labour markets must be considered. In particular, workplace flexibility deserves more attention from scholars and policymakers.

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