2013 was a year of great focus on the area of equality – both at the Institute for Social Research and in society as a whole. CORE (Centre for Research on Gender Equality) – the core community for research on gender equality was established at the institute and the new centre-right government helped to draw clear front lines in the equality debate.
Political rift focuses the mind and helps us to question the status quo. Since the change of government in the autumn, we have obtained a clearer impression of what changes liberal-conservative equality policy may entail for policy development. More than 10 000 people joined the protest march on 8 March against general practitioners’ right to refuse to refer patients for abortions. The “paternal quota” in the parental leave scheme was cut in the 2014 state budget, but was not abolished. And “freedom of choice” was one of the most widely used terms in the public debate. A new political direction raises some fundamental questions about the nature of a good and legitimate equality policy, and what ideological justifications are central to this. This indeed was the topic when we opened a dialogue on equality policy in October and asked the liberal-conservative debaters what their party-political equality policy was.
The seminar on liberal-conservative equality policy was one of several seminars to which we invited politicians, trade unions, bodies representing employers and employees, social commentators, students, researchers and other interested parties to an informal debate based on work-life related equality research. We are pleased to report that there is great interest in this field, and look forward to continuing to unite research and practice here at the Institute for Social Research in the future.
In 2013 we have conducted research on several key contemporary questions regarding equality: We have investigated changes in the gender gap in earnings over the last ten years; the conditions for parental leave for fathers in professional occupations; factors that influence women’s participation in the labour market; gender perspectives in labour and welfare policy; the association between gender equality and multidimensional anti-discrimination legislation in the Nordic countries; violence in intimate relationships; the proliferation of company board quota legislation internationally; and gender, equality and discrimination among the descendants of immigrants to Norway.
The focus of our research and dissemination in 2014 will include multidimensional equality issues related to the interplay between different forms of inequality, and in addition we will focus on the reciprocal effect of equality policy in Norway and the rest of Europe. Additionally we research gender differences in sickness absence, attitudes to gender equality in social elites, gendered educational choices and the effects of the law regarding gender balance on corporate boards.
The equality research community at the institute attempts to contribute to and participate in the public debate, and keeps pace with political developments with keen interest – whether it be the recently announced white paper on equality, the designing of new anti-discrimination legislation, or the government’s heralded effort to deal with the gendered labour market. The core community for research on gender equality – CORE – will soon publish its first book, which discusses the gendered labour market in Norway, the land of equality. It is satisfying to be able to state once again that interesting research questions are relevant to the development of policy and society.