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Changing youth: transition to adulthood in Norway - page 10 / 17

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Law-making does not necessarily cause any immediate changes in behaviour, and there is not yet any conclusive evidence concerning the effects of paternal rights on post-parturition leave (Ve, 1989:255-60).

The figures indicate that both men and women in their early twenties enjoy some years relatively free of family considerations. Young people seem to experience contradictory changes in their transition to adulthood. There are constraining forces, such as unemployment and insecure employment, and the postponement of family formation may be interpreted as a liberating force, especially for young women. Of course, the postponement may reflect both a lack of opportunities and changing preferences.

To stay on in education is for many the preferred alternative, as is full-time work. These two categories show a decreasing proportion living together during the 1980s. Education has a strong effect, and full-time work most influenced those aged 25-29. Housework has almost disappeared as an occupational status, and the reduction of that category accounts for some of the decrease in the overall pattern of cohabitation and marriage since almost all of those who had – and have – housework as their main activity are living together with a partner. There is also a decline in cohabitation and marriage among the unemployed. While education and full-time work prepare one for independent living, unemployment may inhibit the process of family formation. Thus, occupational status structures the path to adulthood.

Discussion – Continuity or change?

The debate over the 1980s is far from settled. Two opposite views seem to dominate the analysis and discussions. One view contends that little changed during these years, and that the basic institutional structure of the Western welfare states remains more or less intact (Mishra, 1993:18 and Hagen, 1991). Such a view finds support in the official report on the standard of living in Norway in the 1980s, in which the committee concludes that the majority improved their standard of living. The comittee also points out that there are categories of youth who risk permanent low standards of living, but these problems are seen more as deviations from the overall picture (NOU, 1993 and Skrede, 1994). The other view accentuates the idea that the changes are fundamental, although the effects are modest in the short term. It is argued that the changes first and foremost are ideological and political, and that these changes do not immediately affect the institutional structure, but might in turn help to bring about changes that did not seem (politically) possible some years ago. The historian Berge Furre argue that such changes have occurred during the 1980s in Norway. He points

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