Number of men in Norwegian childcare has risen fivefold

Several Nordic countries have an ambition to increase the number of male childcare workers. Norway has been more successful than the others. Since 1990, the number of men employed in the childcare sector has increased fivefold. At present, nine per cent of all childcare workers are men, which is a significantly higher share than in the other Nordic countries.

Norway’s success can be attributed to persistent political efforts nationally, regionally and locally. The first national action plan to increase the number of men working in childcare was presented in 1997, and in 1998 it became legal for employers to hire a man instead of a woman in cases of equal, or almost equal, qualifications.

From 2000 to 2010, Norwegian childcare services were dramatically expanded, creating a surge in the demand for childcare workers. County administrations developed action plans specifying how more male workers could be recruited, and regional conferences on gender equality and men in childcare were arranged. Special contests were advertised, where childcare operations involving at least 20 per cent male employees were recognised. Special model childcare centres were also appointed and provided resources to advise other centres on how to recruit and retain more men.

The Norwegian campaign has also involved efforts to make more boys interested in a career as a preschool teacher. In many counties, municipalities have the opportunity to invite boys in lower secondary school to work in childcare. The boys are paid for their work. The idea is for the boys to gain a positive experience of childcare and that this ultimately will reduce the prevalence of gendered career choices.

One goal of Norway’s efforts to increase the number of men in childcare is to make the labour market less gender-segregated. A gender balance is considered important for the children, for the work environment and for gender equality. But more than anything, the efforts are meant to change the traditional view of men’s gender roles. More men in childcare means more role models showing that men, too, can provide nurturing care.

Logotype Nordic Council of Ministers Logotype Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research Logotype University of Gothenburg