A year ago, I wrote a successful application for the Academy of Finland. Very soon, on September 1st, I will start my own postdoctoral research project called Neoliberalizing Welfare State Employment: Ideology, Institutional Agency, and Gendered Labour Market Outcomes (2018-2021). I’m so proud, and so excited!To offer an idea of what I’m going to study, I will share an extended abstract of the project.
Crisis can form a momentum for the adoption of new ideas and reformulation of policy. This is what happened in Finland, when the economic crisis created an opportunity for institutional actors to formulate and implement neoliberal reforms and policies. These include large-scale societal reforms, such as the Competitiveness Pact, Social Services and Regional Government (SOTE) Reform and Decentralization of the Finnish collective bargaining system. Each of these reforms has clear and drastic implications for women in the Finnish labour market, many of whom work for the welfare state in jobs and sectors that are now subjected to intensification, budget cuts, privatization and renegotiation of working conditions.
While neoliberalism, the effects of financial crises and austerity on gender equality have been studied, the proposed project differs from earlier studies through its specific focus on welfare state employment, collective bargaining and gender pay equity. The case studies, (i) the Competitiveness Pact, (ii) Social Services and Regional Government (SOTE) Reform and (iii) Decentralization of the Finnish collective bargaining system were chosen based on their topicality, large-scale gendered effects, and the neoliberal rhetoric that was used for arguing their necessity and importance. The three key processes of neoliberalization, studied via these case studies, are (i) marketization, (ii) privatization and (iii) decentralization.
As a methodology, a narrative approach will be utilized. This approach maps the starting point, key events, actors, the nature of processes connecting events, underpinning social values, political goals and conclusion for the event studied. Another theoretical and methodological approach used in this study is a feminist institutional approach, which analyses formal and informal institutions. In addition, a feminist analysis of the role of agency in institutional change will be used.
The study offers several major contributions to the current scholarship on neoliberalization, institutional agency and change, welfare state employment and gendered implications of the neoliberal reforms on women’s labour market situation and equal pay. This study also uses and further develops the concept of wages as macro-political, which sets wage determination and equal pay in the broader political and macro-economic policy context. These contributions will have both scientific and societal relevance, in Finland and internationally.