The Nordic Welfare Model: Facilitator or Barrier for Women's Entrepreneurship?

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The welfare states of Scandinavia have been regarded as pioneers of gender equality, but structural barriers to women’s participation in the labour market may inadvertently discriminate against women and create opportunity costs delimiting women’s career choices. Family policies are defined to include maternity/paternity leave, benefits, childcare and leave to take care of sick children. The aim of this paper is to increase awareness and elucidate the impact of welfare policies on women’s entrepreneurship because it may impact on women’s entrepreneurial behaviour. The paper investigates the reasons underlying this apparent anomaly so that future policies in Scandinavia and Europe may be tailored to suit the needs of female entrepreneurs. The study uses publicly available statistical data combined with unique survey data from a sample of 1000 sole proprietors (men and women), all members of the Danish Association for the Self-Employed, ASE, to identify the problems encountered by female entrepreneurs. We illustrate the survey findings with three interviews with female entrepreneurs that have been published in the Danish newspapers discussing the problems encountered by self-employed female entrepreneurs. The implications for policy makers are that if they are serious about increasing the number of female entrepreneurs, and achieving equality in the labour market, then future Welfare Models should be tailored to the needs of this group of individuals. So far it has been taken for granted that the initiation of public childcare would facilitate increased entrepreneurship among women. Our study shows that this is not necessarily so, that women utilize ‘babystrapping’ strategies, and that there is a schism between welfare models that facilitate employment and those that facilitate entrepreneurship.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship
Pages (from-to)88-104
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Research areas

  • gender, entrepreneurship, welfare system

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