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Trap for Women or Freedom to Choose? The Struggle over Cash for Child Care Schemes in Finland and Sweden

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2009

Vice Director, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences/Diak South, Sturenkatu 2, 00510 Helsinki, Finland email:
Research Professor, Social Insurance Institution of Finland, KELA/Research, PO Box 450, 00101 Helsinki, Finland email:


Debates on welfare reforms have revolved around institutional inertias with the emphasis on institutions as structures. We argue that political discourses work in the same vein and create continuities constraining the array of possible policy options – political frames as carriers of institutional inertia and path dependence. The data are based on political debates on child home care in Finland and Sweden. The ‘trap for women’ frame became dominant in the Swedish discourse, while in Finland ‘freedom to choose’ has been hegemonic. According to the Swedish frame, public day care offers children the best preconditions for later development and enhances social equality, whereas in Finland care at home with all its positive characteristics was contrasted with bureaucratic institutional care. The article highlights how politicians have used these hegemonic discourses to maintain the legitimacy of certain policy options.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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