The Nordic countries–Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland–have followed different paths in the development of their welfare states but ended up with a welfare model with important similarities, particularly with respect to uni-
Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning nr. 1-201460versalism and equality as the underlying principles (Normann et al. 2009). Prevalence of work-family policies, involving measures for parental leave, publicly financed childcare, and an individual taxation system are considered among the most important societal qualities of the «Nordic model» (Kasvio et al. 2012). Despite variations in the formulation of their specific policies, it is possible to identify a Nordic approach to work and family characterized by collective commitments to childcare and «politicizing parenthood» (Ellingsæter & Leira 2006). (See, for example, Berg-qvist et al. 1999 and Melby et al. 2009 for analyses of the policy differences within the region).
At that time, eight goals that range from providing universal primary education to avoiding child and maternal mortality were set with a target achievement date of 2015.
Work and care are two major pillars of society and the difficulties faced in combining them in a satisfactory manner are both a public issue and a private matter; concerning families, communities, as well as welfare states, and supranational actors. In the Nordic countries, the intricate link between the gendered division of unpaid work in the domestic sphere and gender equality in the labor market has been targeted by social policies earlier than most other European countries. A fairer gendered distribution of paid and unpaid work is gradually acknowledged as an element of gender equality and social inclusion at the level of the European Union (EU) as well. However, policy development in this field is marked by ambiguities and shifting concerns. This overview article has two major aims: to provide a bird’s eye view of the work-family related policies prevailing in the Nordic region and the EU; and to make visible the current challenges on the way to inclusive citizenship.