Fairbrother, Malcolm & Anne Grönlund | 2021
International Journal of Sociology
The study aims to explore whether gendered family roles in the country of origin and the country of destination explain labor market outcomes for immigrants in Sweden. We examine the assumptions of the source country culture literature—that traditional gender norms in immigrants’ source countries drive women’s employment in the new country—by focusing on gender differences and exploring group- and individual-level mechanisms, notably, that of care responsibilities. Using Swedish register data, comprising more than 660 000 individuals from 110 source countries, we analyze the labor market establishment of immigrant women and men in 2016 with multi-level regressions. Findings show that the gender gap in employment is significantly larger among groups from countries with low female labor force participation. Much of this gap is explained by women’s care responsibilities, both at arrival and through continued fertility after arrival. Thus, even in Sweden, with longstanding policies promoting female employment, immigrant women’s employment is conditioned by the gender-traditionality of their source countries. The findings question the gender-equalizing power of welfare state institutions in the face of increasing immigration. However, education crucially affects the implications of cultural background and fertility. In future research, these mechanisms—including the group-level correlations—should be further explored to better pinpoint the obstacles facing women from traditional countries.