Women in labor : a comparative study of family leave policy and social citizenship rights in the United States and Norway





Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus. Fakultet for samfunnsfag



Master in International Social Welfare and Health Policy


Six large national and international reports regarding health indicators for women and children and the provision of national family leave policies came out in the period of 2011 to 2012. These reports, some of which were comparative in nature, described a grim reality in the United States in terms of comparative health and social situations for mothers, and their experiences of motherhood while maintaining participation in the workforce. Within some of the same reports, Norway was hailed as the best place in the world to be a mother (Save the Children 2011; Save the Children 2012). Resources which have a major bearing upon health and social indicators, roughly speaking, the overall health and wealth of these two nations, can be described as being relatively similar; the disparity between these national indicators regarding women and children is surprising and thought-provoking. Academic research is beginning to illuminate how health and ill-health of populations is determined by more than just access to, and quality of, health care and decent standards of living, but also tends to mimic the gradient of social inequality within a society. These social determinants to health must therefore be connected with some of the manifestations of illhealth and welfare described in these reports previously mentioned. In this modern age, it is a commonly held value to be able to take care of oneself, especially in terms of economic support. The relationship between the individual, the state and the labor market/private market, and the means and rules by which an individual operates within this triangular relationship, are greatly affected by social policy. The values and norms by which an individual interacts with his/her world greatly influence the framework of social policy, and subsequently, the values and norms within social policy are both reflective of and emphasize those within the larger culture and political spectrum. The means by which a citizen is able to care for him/herself are adequately covered in T.H. Marshall’s 1949 conception of social citizenship, or the right to economic welfare and security, and to be able to participate in society with the basic set of functions and capabilities according to a socially acceptable standard (Marshall (1949) 2006, 30). The social risk of having a child represents one of the most substantive changes in an individual’s life, an event which has the potential to cause great economic and social conflicts for the parent regarding labor market participation and social participation, and thus upon aspects of social citizenship rights. Family leave policy is uniquely positioned within the triangular relationship previously described in order to mitigate the risk of conflict between the players, and therefore has the potential for substantive impact upon social citizenship rights. Accordingly, this thesis not only explores the reciprocal relationship between cultural values/norms and the policy framework of national family leave policy, but also the potential effects of leave policy upon social citizenship rights.


Permanent URL

  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/1808