Gender equality and the feminized public sector in the affective struggles over the Finnish Competitiveness Pact

Miikaeli Kylä-Laaso, Paula Koskinen Sandberg, Julius Hokkanen

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Collective bargaining has been under great pressure in Finland and Europe, including demands for increased wage competitiveness and reductions in public sector spending. This article showcases how relatively gender-equal states with strong corporatist traditions, such as Finland, may align with neoliberal austerity policies that have gendered implications, even when gender equality becomes a prominent issue in a policy debate. This article analyzes the case of the Competitiveness Pact, a recent policy reform to lower labor costs initiated by the Finnish government and negotiated with labor market parties. This analysis combines affect theory and a policy-constructivist approach to analyze the positions and documents produced by the government and labor market parties during the Competitiveness Pact negotiations. We identify problem representations regarding national competitiveness and suggest that the problem representations constructed anticipatory regimes that focused on potential future threats and crises, especially those related to the public sector, which was portrayed as a source of potential crisis and a threat to the masculine export sector. The article shows how neoliberal economic and governmental policies exacerbate gender inequality in the labor market with the consent of trade unions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • anticipatory regimes
  • austerity
  • collective bargaining
  • competitiveness
  • gender equality
  • public sector

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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