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Essay Samples > Analysis > Welfare States Policies
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Welfare States Policies

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Effects of welfare states policies on gender wage gap: in a comparative analysis between U.S.and Sweden


The existence of the gender pay gap in almost all  world countries has generated the need to better understand various factors contributing to it. These factors have been grouped into two main categories based on how they explain  the gender pay gap: macro level, where women are seen as a homogeneous group, and micro level, which concentrates on psychological approaches viewing women as a heterogeneous and diverse group. At the macro level, the focus is on economic theories which provide explanations to the phenomenon taking into account  such factors as differences in education, work experience, amount of starting salary, as well as general explanations to  different types of discrimination. Micro level explanations of the gender pay gap include  personal factors. These are  individual preferences and forces which change values and attitudes towards working conditions and compensation practices (Gornick & Jacobs 1998).

Generally speaking, there is a visible gap between the gender pay gap and the way individuals distinguish and perceive it regardless of its causes. Investigating the specifics of the gender pay gap, one necessarily focuses on  the way individuals perceive the differences in average hourly earnings of male and female employees having considered the human capital factors of  education, tenure, and so forth. This is crucial because failing to see it can be costly. For instance, if a woman gets lower salary for the same work made by a man, she is worse off economically. On the contrary, if a woman feels she is subject to the gender pay gap that does not occur statistically, she becomes exposed to stress, worry and job dissatisfaction (Gornick & Jacobs 1998).

In practice, not only gender has an impact on the way individuals in various organizations, industries and societies perceive the gap. More theoretical and practical work is needed to shed light on the question of how individuals understand the phenomenon of the gender pay gap, how they experience the phenomenon  across different workplaces and countries (Blau & Kahn 2000). This paper aims to discuss the effects of welfare states policies on the gender wage gaps in the United States and Sweden. The paper will also discuss the key theory of welfare state development, social forces that shape welfare state development, as well as basic welfare arrangements that exist in different countries. It will also focus on  the  type of a welfare state that exists in developed countries.

Effects of Welfare States Policies on Gender Wage Gap


Decommodification of labor is carried out by the welfare state through  filling  in for wages in a direct way by means of  income transfers, or in an indirect way through  provision of free and subsidized goods and services. Other substitutes include insurance against disease and joblessness, food stamps, cash benefits, public housing, free education, and health services. The important outcome of decommodification is that it intensifies employees’ reservation pay and acts as the smallest  reimbursement that makes it worthwhile and close to the salary of a  paid occupation (Birgit 2004). Other things kept constant, the significance of a greater wage floor  decreases class inequity. Furthermore, a high degree of decommodification, together with labor market regulation by the government, is inclined to suppress the development of low-wage occupations in the private sector through shared bargaining. This sector’s characteristic also has the impact of pulling down class inequity. Lastly, a decommodifying welfare state lessens intra-class disparity, removing the gaps between uneven social rights. However,  half-time and irregular employees are more susceptible to wage discrimination. All of these  factors affect the gender wage gap, since labors in the coinciding classes of low-wage jobs and part-time employments are female to a disproportionate degree  (Gupta, Smith, & Verner 2006).


When the welfare state accepts responsibility for the care of infants, small children, and dependent elders, it takes over tasks that would otherwise fall largely on mothers and wives. Service provision of this kind is typically complemented by other entitlements to working mothers, such as paid maternity leave with the right to resume employment, shorter working hours for mothers, and the ability to time off, thus being able to care for sick children. Defamilialization, therefore, has paradoxical effects on gender equality. On the one hand, family policy facilitates women's employment, thereby increasing their economic autonomy and possibly promoting equal power relations with their partners (Mandel & Semyonov b 2005). On the other hand, the facilitation of women's employment by adjusting working time to household demands reduces their motivation to compete with men for lucrative but demanding jobs, and increases the motivation of private employers to practice statistical discrimination against women. Such discrimination is fed by the limited selectivity of women workers under conditions of high female labor force participation, and by their eligibility towards social rights, which are rarely employed by men and which are perceived as lowering women's commitment to work. To sum up, the effect of defamilialization on women’s earnings  is expected to be doubly negative compared to men’s earnings: women are channeled into less favorable class positions and are  paid less than men who occupy similar positions (Meyersson Milgrom, Petersen, & Snartland 2001).

The Welfare State as Employer

The role of the welfare state as an employer and its gendered consequences has become part and parcel of comparative research. A debate over how valuable employment is for women has arisen of late. Several studies indicate that both  skill and  wage policies which exemplify the public sector heighten women’s wages compared to the wages received by men. However, the same studies have also indicated that the overrepresentation of women folk in the remarkably outsized Swedish public sector added to broadening of the gender wage gap. Trying to resolve these ostensibly inconsistent findings brings in the question of how the welfare state as an employer influences gender wage disparity (Orloff 1996).

Some plausible advantages of the public social services include extensive establishment of health, education and care services. These undoubtedly provide women with more specialized and semi-professional occupations than are available in the private service sector. Moreover, since governments are big, straight, and politically sensible employers, payments are usually discussed with unions in a consolidated manner and controlled administratively. Accordingly, the public sector is inclined to desist from remunerating low wages or openly discriminating against females (Mandel & Shaleva 2009).

However, reduced wage differentials also suggest lower earnings maxima for those who work within the upper reaches. In large public sectors such as in Sweden women are mostly employed to work in high-level professional class positions. Whether because of the lack of other job prospects or their own likings, women are attracted by the shorter and flexible hours offered by the public sector. In this way, the public sector's flexibility has the same head-strong significances as work-family resolution policies. It appeals to women by providing them with jobs that are lowly paid, but better fit in with women's domestic responsibilities (Orloff 1996).

Key Theory of Welfare State Development

There are diverse ways of examining the growth of the welfare state, and concluding how far its demands for changes should be extended in order to bring about improved technology, bettered demographic trends like lower death rates and high life expectancies. The key theories of welfare state development are established around liberalism, democratic theory, corporatist theory, and post structuralism. Each of these has at some point  been reflected in the development of welfare states.

The dimension of welfare state regime represents a powerful norm that grounds the relationship between individuals' gender stereotypes and ideologies on the one hand, and gender inequality and gender discrimination on the other hand. In liberal and social democratic welfare states such indicators of gender equality as women's participation and representation in the labor force, government and politics are more visible than in corporatist welfare states. Accordingly, although gender equality is supposed to be higher in liberal and social democratic welfare states than in corporatist welfare states, individuals in corporatist welfare states are less likely to be sensitive towards the gender pay gap because it is considered to be a part of a shared belief that women's job is worth less than men's. Alternatively, members of liberal and social democratic welfare states whose practices are more gender egalitarian are expected to be more sensitive towards gender pay inequalities as that would be an unaccepted practice for them (Myles & Quadagno 2002).

Social forces that Shapes Welfare State Development

Gender Role Orientation

Gender role orientation is based on the views that people hold about the appropriate roles for males and females at work and at home. Gender role orientation can be either traditional or egalitarian. Traditional conceptions of gender role orientation suggest that men specialize in the market work and build their careers with support from families, who provide them with confidence, while women primarily care about family and think about their careers only afterwards. Alternatively, egalitarian gender role orientation allows flexibility for both men and women with the objective of managing their market and domestic household duties by relaxing the gendered separation of work and family (Gleason 2012).

Individuals holding traditional gender role orientation are expected to follow a traditional division of labor preserving power and superior privilege for  men. They are expected to be less concerned about gender inequalities and about the gender pay gap in particular. Conversely, individuals with egalitarian gender role orientation are expected to perceive gender inequalities to a greater extent than others because they are more likely to adjust their attitudes on the basis of empirically obtained evidence  rather than on traditional conceptions. Individuals with egalitarian gender role orientation are thus more likely to have learnt about the gender pay gap (Khoreva 2009).

Individual Factors

Studies indicate that women are less aware of gender pay inequity than men. Besides, older individuals are likely to report more traditional attitudes towards pay dispensation and married individuals are less concerned about the gender pay gap. Also, highly educated individuals tend to be more critical towards unequal pay dispensation.

Traditionally, women and men act the way they usually do in part because of gender socialization. Several theories including social learning, gender schema, and psychoanalytic theories have attempted to clarify the process of gender socialization. All these theories share the assumption that gender socialization leads to construction of a society where individuals are put into certain social roles. Based on the idea gender socialization, males and females receive positive acknowledgements when they act in ways fitting  their gender while getting negative acknowledgements for acting like the opposite sexual category. Furthermore, due to gender socialization, men and women obtain differential roles and positions in organizations (Rubery & Grimshaw 2009).

Organizational Factors

Gender composition of the employment sector promotes the tendency to devalue women's work, and is one of the key factors in determining individuals' perceptions of the gender pay gap. For example, it has been found that lower pay is perceived as more fair in female-concentrated rather than in male-concentrated sectors by both genders, which means that the perceived gender pay gap is lower in female-concentrated rather than in male-concentrated sectors (Tranby 2010).

Relevant explanation to how gender composition of the employment sector can influence the perceived gender pay gap is based on expectancy theory. According to the theory, changes in awareness are expected to influence the motivation to achieve as well as generate mental states of inequality. The theory describes the worth of the payment, the performance-reward association, and the performance-effort association. The worth of the reward, financial compensation in this case, appears to have been raised for women recently. In the earlier times, there was an inclination to undervalue performance-reward connections in female-concentrated sectors since women were more likely to work in sectors which provided services rather than produced products. As women started moving into male-concentrated sectors, the performance-reward connection became more comprehensive, but there are still some female-concentrated sectors where the establishment of the performance-reward connection is at the very beginning. The performance-effort connection is also uncertain in many female-concentrated sectors (Mandel 2010).

Public Awareness

Many societies are currently characterized by a gender hierarchy embodied into masculine norms and structures and implemented in wider circle of social relations of male dominance and female disadvantage. Gender hierarchy in organizations and more broadly in societies is shadowed by processes of disembodiment, such as merit and productivity, which make it difficult to understand the persistence of male privilege and the absence of gender equality (Khoreva 2009).

Welfare State Regimes

Welfare state regimes are strongly associated with allocation of gender roles and the extent to which gender equality is achieved in the society. While in corporatist state regime social gender roles are visibly separate so that men are expected to be assertive, strong and focused while women should be enormously modest, tender as well as concerned with good quality of life, social gender roles overlap in liberal and social democratic regime-type states. Women are likely to pursue stereotypically female roles, and men are likely to continue dominating by following traditionally male roles, since in corporatist welfare states gender role differences tend to be clearly diverse. Such division of labor in corporatist welfare states benefits men and disadvantages women, because men show greater dedication to their work and women show greater dedication to their homes. Therefore, in corporatist regime-type states individuals might not have a tendency to recognize pay inequalities by considering this division of labor pay as correct and fair. On the contrary, since women in liberal and social democratic regime-type states are expected to have same gender roles as men, they similarly to men are expected to recognize pay inequalities as a discrimination practice against them and take forces against it (Orloff 1996).

Awareness of Advantages and Disadvantages of Comparative to the Study of Welfare States

The legal systems and legal cultures found in Sweden are not the same as those in the United States. One dissimilar factor between the nations is that it is hard or even unmanageable to take class-action lawsuits to the benches in Sweden. Another difference of the utilitarian background is that Sweden has solid democratic traditions which permitting much fewer inequalities in wages than the United States. The nations are at contradictory ends of the band with respect to pay and income inequity. The dispersal of market recompenses before taxes is imbalanced in Sweden. But Sweden has a more advanced tax system, so that nonrefundable returns after taxes and allocations are almost equal in Sweden (Meyersson Milgrom, Petersen, & Snartland 2001).

The greater parity of pays across careers in Sweden compared to the United States can have a variety of noteworthy empirical concerns. Firstly, the general gender wage gap may well be lower in Sweden, assuming that females are concentrated in low-waged occupations. Secondly, occupational gender segregation may clarify more concerning the gap in the United States than in Sweden, since inter-occupational pay inequality is greater in the United States. At the same time, there is a greater intra-occupational wage inequality in the United States and probably less occupational sex segregation (Blau & Kahn 2000). Both counter the first consequence, the rise in pay inequity, and may cause less occupational significance for elucidating the gender wage gap. In the United States, the extent of wage inequality heightened in the 1980s, which, all other things being equal, deteriorated the relative status of women. However,  women bettered their overall position compared to men just because gender segregation in employments reduced, and women had a greater opportunity to access highly paid occupations in the professions and away (Gornick & Jacobs 1998).

Basic Welfare Arrangements That Exists In the Different Countries and the Broad Type of Welfare State That Exists In Developed Countries

Welfare state policies in contemporary societies are grounded on certain notions that explain what ‘normal’ means with respect to the shaping of employment profiles and methods of employment. Moreover, they are based upon particular concepts reflecting the ways in which societal security and service should be linked, and concerning the social groups which ought to be incorporated into rewarded labor and social security. Intercontinental differences are existent, for instance, those that relate to  values about the labor market assimilation of immigrants and mothers with small children (Pfau-Effinger 2005).

Welfare state policies are also based upon particular concepts of solidarity and societal integration. A comparison of France, Britain and Germany revealed that the significance of social exclusion fluctuates is subject to whether a liberal, republican or social democratic understanding of exclusion prevails. These cultural variations can be used to prove the fact that diverse forms of welfare state follow dissimilar migration guidelines (Mandel & Semyonovb 2005).


In order to promote fairness and responsiveness in culturally diverse societies, trade union campaigns, societal movements and governments' campaigns are organized. One of their objectives is to increase public awareness of social inequalities including possible cases of discrimination. Another objective is to reduce directly reported, explicit, as well as implicit prejudices at multiple levels and unconscious gender stereotypes, which in turn may have an impact on the gender pay gap. If trade unions campaigns, societal movements, and governmental campaigns are  key factors influencing public awareness, greater awareness is expected to be witnessed among those individuals who participate in them. In other words, individuals who participate in various campaigns are assumed to be better informed about gender inequalities, feminist movements, and family-friendly policies among other issues that relate to the existence of the gender pay gap than others. Furthermore, participants of such campaigns are expected to have a bigger support in their struggle against gender pay inequalities.

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