Social Inclusion or Gender Equality? Political Discourses on Parental Leave in Finland and Sweden

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Social Inclusion or Gender Equality? Political Discourses on Parental Leave in Finland and Sweden


  • Mikael Nygård Department of Social Policy, Åbo Akademi University, Finland
  • Ann-Zofie Duvander Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, Sweden / Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mid University, Sweden


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Abstract:  During the 2010s, both Finland and Sweden made advancements in their parental leave systems by widening the right to paid parental leave to a greater diversity of family constellations and investing in gender-equal leave distribution through longer leave periods reserved for the father. However, in the latter respect, Sweden has remained more successful than Finland. This article analyses government and political party discourses in Finland and Sweden during the 2010s in pursuit of an explanation to this difference and for understanding how ideas on social inclusion and gender equality have been used to drive, or block, policy reforms in the field of parental leave. The results show that the parental leave discourses have become influenced by ideas on social inclusion and gender equality in both countries, but in somewhat different ways. While gender equality has retained a stronger position in the Swedish discourse and its policy, social inclusion, and notably the rights of same-sex parents, have become more visible in the Finnish. However, the results also show that both ideas have remained contested on a party level, especially by confessional and nationalist-populist parties.

Keywords:  2010s; Finland; gender equality; government; parental leave distribution; political discourse; political party; Sweden

Published:   11 June 2021


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i2.3844


© Mikael Nygård, Ann-Zofie Duvander. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.