Gender cultures and the gender arrangement—a theoretical framework for cross‐national gender research

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How can the marked national differences in the rates of women's participation in the labour market, and in their involvement in part‐time work, be explained? While institutional conditions, for example childcare policy, can have a contextual importance, these are not adequate for understanding women's different orientations and practices in combining paid and unpaid work. Rather, we must examine the idea that the social practice of women is heavily influenced by predominant norms and values about the ‘correct’ gender division of labour. Culture must therefore be included in any explanation of cross‐national differences in employment patterns. This is the task of this paper. After briefly examining the limitations of pre‐existing explanations, the paper goes on to present an alternative theorization which conceptualizes the links between gendered natures, structures and action. This new theoretical approach is then applied to a comparative analysis of changing employment patterns in Finland, Germany and The Netherlands.

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