Affirming, Transforming, or Neglecting Gender? The Politics of Gender in the Pension Reform Process

Patrik Marier (2007)
Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 14(2): 182-211.


This article analyzes the gender visions adopted by policy actors in pension reform debates. Based on the work of Fraser ( Fraser, N. 1994 . “After the Family Wage: Gender Equity and the Welfare State.” Political Theory 22 : 591–618; Fraser, N. 1995 . “From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a ‘Post-Socialist’ Age.” New Left Review 212:68–93), four gendered visions of public pensions are introduced and then applied to pension reforms in Belgium and Sweden. In line with international trends, both cases seek to integrate women within a pension system that treats men and women the same regardless of their nonmarket activities. However, in both cases, some compensation is introduced to acknowledge the caring functions performed mainly by women. Based on Fraser’s typology, this arrangement leads to one of the worst-case scenarios since it legitimizes pension systems that are predominantly geared toward full-time contributors and penalizes those individuals most likely to spend sometimes away from the labor market. The Belgian case emphasizes the negative role of the EU in retrenching pension rights and benefits for women. The Swedish case is interesting because of the scope of its reform and the fact that women in the service sector end up supporting the principle of tying benefits to contributions.