Understanding Local Variations in Gender Relations Using Gender Contract Theory

Abstract: Despite Sweden’s family policy existing at the national level, usage of these policies can vary substantially across regions and by gender suggesting a need for closer examination of local variance in these usages. The concept of ‘gender contract’, describes the systematic organization of a gender system that is constructed, controlled and reinforced by relations between men and women and articulated into daily activities such as childcare. This study demonstrates the importance of spatial variation in gender contracts and identifies gender contracts from the gendered use of parental leave in Sweden. Using register data, we create individualized neighbourhoods with fixed population size, based on the location of the residence of individuals. By using a multiscalar approach, we show that local gender contracts vary substantially, and that no dominant regional gender contracts appear instead highlighting local variance of gender contracts. The spatial analyses show the ways in which individuals engage with both structure and society in their daily life. Uncovering gender contracts highlights the ways in which national policies are interpreted locally by users and test the operationalisation of a so far mainly theoretical concept.