The purpose of this paper is to outline the background as well as methodological and epistemological aspects to, and the effects of, a follow‐up study 30 years later of the work‐sharing couples project, which is a Norwegian, experimental research project in the early 1970s. The aim of the project is to promote gender equality and a better work/life balance in families. In this paper the variation in work‐sharing and post work‐sharing trajectories over the life‐course is explored, mainly focusing on the impact of the work‐sharing arrangement on the couples' relations, their work/life balance and the well‐being of participants, the core objectives of the original project.
The original project has a small scale, interventionist design based on couples working part‐time and sharing childcare and housework; effects on family life and gender equality are documented by questionnaires and time diaries. In the follow‐up study, retrospective life‐course couple interviews with the original participants are used.
Revisiting the original project produced new insights into, the subversive and radical use of sex‐role theory in early Norwegian family sociology as an instrument of changing gender relations. In the follow‐up study, the high level of participation and the long duration of the arrangement would seem to qualify for a heightened level of expectation as to the effects of the experiment on the participants' lives. A high proportion of the couples are still married, and the work‐sharing arrangement has been regarded by the majority of participants to have had a positive impact on their marital relation, work/life balance and well‐being.
Insights gained from revisiting this project may prove fruitful when confronting contemporary dilemmas of work/life balance, as well as demographic and environmental challenges.
The original project is unique internationally owing to its theoretically subversive, interventionist design and reformatory ambition. The longitudinal follow‐up of the experiment is also unique in family research, and of great value for researchers into gender equality and the family.
Bjørnholt, M. (2009), "Norwegian work‐sharing couples project 30 years later: Revisiting an experimental research project for gender equality in the family", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 304-323. https://doi.org/10.1108/02610150910954773Download as .RIS
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