New patterns and structures of family formation and relationships give rise to new gender issues and the need for new policies. In Norway, many people live in single households, some couples cohabit for a while, others never marry. The divorce rate among those who marry is high. Marriages where one or both partners are of foreign origin have become more and more common in Norway. Same-sex couples have had the right to registered cohabitation since 1993. Since 2009 same-sex couples have had the right to enter into marriage on the same basis as heterosexuals, but they are not allowed to marry in church.
Most children and adolescents live in traditional nuclear families. Due to changing family constellations, other children might live in single parent households, with step-parents, they may move between parents, and/or live with half-siblings. When parents separate, children and adolescents most often continue to live with their mother. Some people, mostly immigrants, live in extended family constellations. Few families comprise more than two generations living together.
These various family constellations have consequences for how men and women share responsibilities and care for households, children, elderly and other dependants. Additionally, there is a traditional division regarding unpaid labour between women and men in Norway. Although men today do more housework, women still spend more time on it.
Norway has for many years developed policies for improving the conditions for families with small children. But childbearing and parenthood continue to have a stronger impact on women’s daily lives than on men’s. The gendered division of care work and household responsibilities has negative consequences for women’s position in the labor market.
Parents can choose how to divide parental leave between them, but mothers use most of the leave. In order to strengthen fathers’ relationships with their children and to signal the need for fathers to participate in childcare, 10 weeks of the total allocated period of parental leave are reserved for the father. It is also largely women who make use of the cash benefit arrangement, in which the government makes payments to parents who choose not to use public day care facilities.