Number of children born Acknowledgements

5 Summary and guidelines for future projects

Behind a stable and relatively high fertility level during the 1990s we find increasing differences in the pattern of fertility both in regard to the timing of the first childbirth and number of children born. Education differentiates increasingly between age at first childbirth. New forms of social inequality are emerging and old social dividing lines have been maintained. In Norwegian gender equality policy, education and labour force participation have been considered the main road to women's liberation. Attitudes towards women's labour force participation vary between social classes. The transition from traditional to modern patterns of fertility has not developed in parallel for all women. Increased gender equality has been the reality and ideal for many, but this modernisation of women's life does not involve all groups of women.

Nevertheless, the fact that women wish to participate in the labour market does not mean that they do not want children. The family institution is strongly embedded in the Norwegian society. Surveys indicate that women want a family, but that they also want to participate in the labour force. Generations of women have lived their lives influenced by different regimes of family policies. Younger female generations have grown up in a time when gender equality and new patterns of family formation have been established. From a life course perspective these women probably consider labour force participation as natural as child-raising.

An interesting hypothesis for future research is that family policy measures aimed at facilitating the combination of child raising and family life with occupational activity will have significant effects on fertility development. Family policy reforms have often been introduced as delayed responses to new family forms and practices in Norway. During the 1990s there has been a substantial expansion in family reforms. It is conceivable that a combination of child raising and family life with labour force participation has been facilitated through recent expansion of Norwegian family policies. Such a combination is also common for different groups of today's young women. Norwegian women have to a large extent developed a dual strategy towards employment and children, where they do not choose between employment and children, but choose both. Studies have shown that Norway has a high level of occupational sex segregation. The public sector has through female-friendly working conditions been an attractive employer for women. In the light of these observations it would be interesting to look closer into the connection between fertility trends and choice of education and further choice of occupation.


Number of children born Acknowledgements

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New fertility trends in Norway
Trude Lappegård
© 2000 Max-Planck-Gesellschaft ISSN 1435-9871