Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Inauthenticity at Work: Moral Conflicts in Marketoriented Welfare Organizations 1

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Inauthenticity at Work: Moral Conflicts in Marketoriented Welfare Organizations 1

Article excerpt

Introduction

Symptoms of fatigue related to stress and the development of mentally exhausting work are growing problems in Europe. In a survey carried out by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2009) in all European Union member states, respondents named fatigue as the second most common threat posed by the working environment.1 According to the survey, stress was experienced by an average of 22% of the working Europeans. Other studies in European countries indicate that since the 1990s the psychosocial work conditions generally have deteriorated, with intensified demands, less autonomy, and less job security (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, 2007a, 2007b). Particularly European women are increasingly affected by stress at work (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2011). Job stress is associated with poorer psychological well-being, which in turn is a risk factor for long-term illness (Virtanen et al., 2007).

Sweden is one of the European countries where stress-related problems are most prevalent. The number of employees who develop work-related problems due to stress and other mental tensions has more than doubled over the last ten years (Swedish Work Environment Authority, 2010). Today stress and mental strain are the leading causes of work-related disorders among women and the second most common reasons among men (Swedish Work Environment Authority, 2010).

Studies emphasize that Swedish women compared with women from other European countries, despite a more comprehensive family policy insurance, experience a greater conflict between work and private commitments and more often develop stress-related mental health problems because of this conflict (Strandh and Nordenmark, 2006). Yet, comparative analyses often point out Sweden and the other Nordic countries as role models for gender equality policies (Buchanan and Annesley, 2007; Lister, 2009; Pascall and Lewis, 2004). According to Save the Children's mother index 2012, Sweden was ranked the third best country for mothers (Save the Children, 2012). Furthermore, in the year 2009, about 34% of the employed women between 25 and 54 years with children at home worked part-time (Statistics Sweden, 2010), which might have reduced work stress. The article addresses the question how this "Swedish working women paradox" can be explained by placing individual professionals' experiences within an organizational transformation perspective.

Market-oriented reorganizations in Sweden

One explanation of Swedish women's dominance concerning sick leave because of stress disorders is that many women, in the highly gender-segregated Swedish working life (Gonäs and Karlsson, 2006; Löfström, 2004), are engaged in caring professions, where the caring relation has become more strained because of the public sector's reorganizations and downsizing since the 1990s (Falkenberg et al., 2009; Hertting et al., 2005). For instance, Lidwall et al. (2009) show that the psychosocial work environment and the work situation were more important explanatory factors for long-term sickness in 2002 compared with 1986-1989.

Since the end of the 1980s, market governance has become increasingly common in the public sector in Sweden and many other European countries (Målqvist et al., 2011). Sweden shores high on new public management emphasis (Hood, 1995). The implementation of market-orientated rationales and directives assumes a variety of appearances in different countries (Almqvist, 2006; Ferlie et al., 1996). In Sweden, rationalization and reorganizations have generally taken place in all public areas, as the legal system, the national defense, central administration, the school, the health care, and other service production in the municipalities. Many of the changes during the last decades are re- garded as effects of the conversion of new steering ideals into new steering methods and organizational structures (Hasselbladh et al. …

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