Questioning policy-making as problem-solving. A Bacchian examination of how paid parental leave was problematized in New Zealand and Norway
This thesis adopts Carol Bacchi’s Foucault-influenced poststructuralist perspective to investigate how the concept of gender equality was conceptualized in the paid parental leave (PPL) policies in New Zealand and Norway. Poststructuralism is concerned with how we ‘know’ things, and with language, and the Foucauldian influence brings a focus on discourse as knowledge. Poststructuralism is also concerned with subjectification, how subject positions are created by the discourse, and the way in which some people are excluded from certain subject positions. The research investigates changes to the PPL policies in New Zealand and Norway and how gender equality was conceptualized in each country. This research is conducted using two closely-related poststructuralist methodologies for two different types of data. The first data consist of historical documents from prior to and including the time that the PPL policies were changed and Bacchi’s ‘What’s the Problem Represented to be?’ or ‘WPR’ framework is used to analyse them. The second data consist of interviews with people involved in the PPL policies and Bacchi and Bonham’s Poststructural Interview Analysis or ‘PIA’ framework is used to analyse them. For both data sets, the analysis consists of thematic coding, followed by answering the series of WPR questions or the PIA processes. Three common themes of payment rate, eligibility, and rights were identified in the analysis of the historical data and they provided a focus for the interview data analysis. Different conceptions of gender equality were identified in each country. The research makes a number of contributions. It provides an original insight into the design of PPL policy from a critical perspective and brings a gender lens to policy analysis. It offers a unique comparison between New Zealand and Norway, and provides a further methodological example of the established WPR framework, as well as an early application of the new PIA approach. The research also challenges policy-makers to makers to adopt and maintain a critical perspective in their work, and to recognise that people are subjects, and that policies are problems constituted by the discourse.