Gender equality and welfare politics in Scandinavia, edited by Kari Melby, Anna-Birte Ravn and Christina Carlsson Wetterberg

Policy Press, 2008, xi + 244 pp, hbk 1 847 420664, £70

The papers collected in this volume study the connections and disconnections between understandings of gender equality and policies aimed at gender equality in different Nordic countries. Common to Nordic welfare states is a stress on employment (the dual breadwinner model) and gender neutrality; and still common are gender segregated labour markets and women bearing a greater domestic and caring burden than men. Two understandings of women’s economic rights are at work here: the right to an income from employment, and the attachment of economic rights to caring responsibilities.

Of particular interest to readers of this Newsletter will be chapter 3 on married women’s right to pay taxes. The chapter charts increasing opposition to Denmark’s gendered tax system, the move to separate taxation of spouses’ incomes, and continuing gendered aspects of the system. In her postscript Ruth Lister discusses homecare allowances and asks whether they harm women’s longer term labour market participation.

There is much of interest in this collection, and particularly the different discussions of parental leave in different chapters. Unfortunately there isn’t a thorough discussion of social security benefits and the ways in which they are and are not gendered. Perhaps another book?