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Competence investments and gender - a study of processes

Research project In Sweden and other countries women take part in university education to a larger extent than men – yet they receive lower returns to their investments. In the project, the interplay between skill investments in education and work is examined.

Study 1 aims to explore whether men and women receive different rewards to their educational investments. The methods include a survey to 5 000 men and women with a degree from five university programs and repeated interviews with 30 students. In Study 2 we study skill investments from the employer´s point of view comprises by case studies of workplaces. Study 3 is a quantitative, longitudinal studie based on the Swedish Level of Living Survey and the LISA register. Here, we examine how workplace tenure and work interruptions are related to on-the-job training and wages.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2012-01-01 2014-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research subject

Sociology

Project description

In Sweden, as in many other countries, women take part in university education to a larger extent than men – yet they receive lower returns to their investments in terms of skill development at the workplace as well as wages. Thus, the competences of women and men appear to be differently perceived or valued in working life.

However, the processes are not well understood and human capital theory – often used to explain gender differences in training and wages – is based on potentially problematic assumtions about traditional gender roles. In Sweden in particular, these roles have changed considerably over the past decades, as women have gained a strong foothold in the labour market and the division of housework and childcare has become more gender equal.

In the project, the interplay between skill investments in education and working life, and the impact of gender, is examined. Quantitative and qualitative methods are combined to examine these processes, in transition from university to work, as well as in the workplace.

Study 1 aims to explore whether men and women reveice different rewards to their educational investments already at the outset of their careers. The methods include a survey to 5 000 men and women that recently obtained a degree from five university programs leading to an occupational degree (e.g., civil engineer, psychologist). Also, repeated interviews are carried out 2012-15 with 30 students from these programs.

Study 2 comprises case studies of workplaces where managers and employees are interviewed. One aim is to study skill investments from the employer´s point of view. Another aim is to validate measures of on-the-job training that are used in international research. In both cases, we focus on the link between gender, training and wages.

Study 3 is a quantitative, longitudinal studie based on the Swedish Level of Living Survey and the LISA register. Here, we examine how workplace tenure and work interruptions are related to the possibility of obtaining formal and informal on-the-job training and how these factors affect wages for women and men.

The project contributes theoretically and empirically to research on gender, skill investment and wages.