EspaNet France workshop on Gender and the Welfare State (30-31 March)

In connection with the European network EspaNet, the RT 6 of the French Sociology Association organizes a scientific meeting open to all researchers specializing in the analysis of social protection, social policies and solidarity. This year’s symposium is devoted to gender in social policies.

The workshop is held online, on Thursday 30 March and Friday 31 March, and open to attend. Please register by sending an e-mail to, and you will receive the Zoom links ahead of the meeting.

More information on the workshop

Gender analysis of the welfare state has made a significant contribution to the development of the investigation of social policies by the social sciences. Analysis of the role of gender, sex differences and/or sexual orientations in the domains of specific social policies, welfare states more generally, and other more or less formal types of solidarities (such as within couples or families), have often focused on discourses, norms and professional practices.

At the intersection of these issues, the discussion in sociology about categories, which both describe and organize the structure of the social world, plays a key role. The categories of sex, gender and sexual orientations are cultural and political, as well as practical. They are constructed through both normative and scientific debates and have specific implications in terms of social hierarchies and inequalities. In the context of the welfare state, these and other categories of social policy are practical devices – employed as criteria organizing social rights and entitlements – that traditionally play a key role in the functioning of welfare arrangements.

In sociology, political science, economics and other social sciences, the literature usually addresses the relationships between gender and social policy in two main ways. Firstly, approaches to welfare state dynamics from the perspective of gender, sex difference or sexual orientation have questioned the basic analytical notions and mechanisms involved. For example, this has been evident in relation to historical approaches to welfare state development. In addition, analysis through a gender lens of the agenda setting process, the rise of new public problems, controversies and social movements, and policy ideas or normative concepts such as “social investment” or “social inclusion” has shed new light on those issues.

Secondly, research into the impact on gender differences and inequalities of social policies in relation to their conception, design, implementation, and evaluation, has also been very fruitful. One example of a key research issue in this context is the role of non-formal norms and hierarchies or cultural codes about gender or sex differences in social policy making. At the other end of the policy cycle, the impact of social policies and policy instruments on gender relations, and on gender equality, has also been an important area of enquiry. Questions of interest here include both how social policies contribute to shaping or mitigating gender inequalities and how the development of a ‘gender lens’ and gendered analytical categories contribute to new ways of evaluating public policies.

Other analytical frameworks and theoretical concepts are particularly relevant to the gendered dimension of the welfare state – including those relating to various levels of policy making and implementation (from the European Union and international organizations such as the OECD or the ILO, to the localities), or the dynamics of state-society relations, in terms of input to the policy cycle and policy delivery. A range of assessments and investigations has been carried out into, for example, recent strategies aiming at individualizing social rights, putting an emphasis on gender discrimination, or mainstreaming the issue of gender equality.

The relationships between sex differences and other forms of inequalities in the broad context of social policy making will be an important area of enquiry during the conference. Intersectionality, the “doing gender” tradition, the questioning in terms of gender discrimination or non-take up of social rights, and other analytical frameworks applied to specific social groups, such as organizations such as feminist associations, unions or other sociopolitical actors, in the context of social policy making are of particular relevance.