Changing Structures and Women’s Role as Labor Force


  • Lena Gonäs Karlstad University
  • Arja Tyrkkö Department of Social and Psychological Studies, Karlstad University



Employment, wages, unemployment & rehabilitation, Gender, ethnicity, age & diversity, Labor market institutions & social partners


The objective of this paper is to analyze changes in the development of women’s role as labor force over a 40-year period. This is done by presenting research results that concern the restructuring of the labor market over different time periods. The empirical material is from the 1960s, the heyday of the Swedish model; from the 1980s, the period that economic historians label the third industrial revolution; and from the 1990s, a period labeled the new working life that is covering the reorganization of the public sector. For the first period results from restructuring in the shipyard industry are presented as well as employment outcomes for single individuals. This industry was male dominated with very few women employed, but regional policy measures were implemented to reach a latent female labor force. The second period is covered by a study of closures and cutbacks in different industries in Sweden during 1982–1983. The proportion of women employed in the industries studied was around one third and employment outcomes had a specific gendered pattern. Women did to a lower extent than men get new permanent jobs. Permanent temporariness was introduced as a concept to describe their labor market situation. The recession that one decade later hit both female- and male-dominated sectors is illustrated by a study of the relations between labor market attachment, working life, and family conditions. The material comes from a regional research program based on a questionnaire and on register data on incomes from 1990 to 1999. The paper analyzes several areas related to work and outside of work that indicate a gendered pattern of multidimensional subordination and an increased polarization in terms of both gender and class. In conclusion, the 40 years has been a period of dramatic change in women’s situation as labor force. In times of restructuring they often entered into precarious job situations or unemployment. Women’s double burden proved remarkably resilient when explaining gender differences in employment and working conditions.

Author Biographies

Lena Gonäs, Karlstad University

Professor Emerit, Department of Working Life Science. email:

Arja Tyrkkö, Department of Social and Psychological Studies, Karlstad University

Senior Lecturer




How to Cite

Gonäs, L., & Tyrkkö, A. (2015). Changing Structures and Women’s Role as Labor Force. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 5(2), 89–108.