Women's Work and Reasons for Absence from Work

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Liv Johanne SOLHEIM , Fac. of Education and Social Work, Lillehammer University College, Lillehammer, Norway
Randi BREDVOLD , Fac. of Economics Organization Science, Lillehammer University College, Lillehammer, Norway
The equal opportunities for women in the Scandinavian labour market have been improved the last decades. But in terms of caring tasks in domestic life there is still a way to go, and therefore it is a challenge especially for women to combine the two spheres. During the period 1980 to 2009 the sickness absence among men in Norway has been relatively stable while the sickness absence among women has increased 70%. Women’s higher sickness absence rate is not exceptional. Comparative studies show that women had a higher rate of sickness absence than men in most countries. But they also conclude that there is lacking knowledge about the reasons for women’s higher sickness absence.

This paper will focus on a) women’s self-reported reasons for their sickness absence, and b) the importance of social capital at the work place and in their domestic life.

The data material is responses from a postal questionnaire sent to Norwegian long term sick listed women with mental illness or musculoskeletal diagnoses, and in-depth interviews with a sample of long term sick listed women with the same diagnosis.

The overall findings showed that women’s sickness absence has to be understood as a combination of demand, control and social capital both at their work place and in their private lives. Persons with high social capital both at the work place and in their domestic lives have the best prospects to return to work. Single mothers often have low social capital in both spheres, and they are the most vulnerable group. The political consequences for reducing women’s sickness absence will be that it is urgent to focus not only on measures at the work places, but also at women’s burdens in the private sphere.