A Gender Equalizing Regulatory Welfare State? Enacting the EU’s Work-Life Balance Directive in Denmark and Poland

Caroline de la Porte*, Trine P. Larsen, Dorota Szelewa

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article examines the implementation of the European Union’s (EU) work-life balance directive in Denmark and Poland through examining the earmarking of paid parental leave. This enables us to assess whether the EU could be emerging as a gender equalizing regulatory welfare state (RWS). Our analysis points to tensions arising when regulatory decisions are made at a higher level of governance but require implementation and funding at lower levels of governance. In both countries, there are similar parental leave schemes ex-ante, and major actors had similar initial stances on parental leave, favoring stagnation. Yet the plans to implement show how the actors’ positions changed, and the likely result is extended parental leave, with payment (known as double expansion) and more gender-equal participation (degenderization) in parental leave. Although in two different institutional settings, the similar outcome suggests that these changes are due to the European Union acting as an emerging RWS, which influences Member States’ regulatory instruments with fiscal elements.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science
Pages (from-to)84–103
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Work-life balance
  • Gender equality
  • EU social policy
  • Parental leave
  • Denmark
  • Poland
  • Regulatory welfare state

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