Sweden and gender equality

Sweden believes that women and men should have equal power to shape society and their own lives. Often considered a gender equality role model, Sweden has come a long way. Still, there’s room for improvement.

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Sweden and gender equality

Sweden believes that women and men should have equal power to shape society and their own lives. Often considered a gender equality role model, Sweden has come a long way. Still, there’s room for improvement.

1250s

Rape and abduction prohibited in Sweden

1842

A school reform allows girls to be educated

1846

Widows, divorcees and unmarried women entitled to work in certain areas

1919

All women gain the right to vote (Left: Elin Wägner with 350,000 signatures for this cause)

1938

Birth control and abortion legalised

1947

  • New law on universal child allowances
  • The first woman in government: Karin Kock
1955

Three months' paid maternity leave for working women

1970

Alva Myrdal, the first woman to hold a high position in the UN, here chairing a UN disarmament meeting

1971

Joint taxation of spouses abolished

1974

Parental leave replaces maternity leave (Weightlifter 'Hoa-Hoa', above, was later used to promote daddy leave, even though he didn't take any himself)

1975

Abortion permitted until 18th week of pregnancy

1980

Gender discrimination in the workplace made illegal

1991

New law on gender equality (replaced by the Discrimination Act in 2009)

2002

Parental leave: 480 days – two months reserved for each parent

2009

Sweden gets an Equality Ombudsman

2016

Parental leave updated: three months of parental leave reserved for each parent

Photos, from the top: Wikimedia Commons, Jason Briscoe, Wikimedia Commons, Stockholmskällan, UN Photo, Riksbanken, Reijo Rüster, Ragnhild Haarstad/TT, Wikimedia, Mikhail Pavstuyk, Amanda Westerbom & Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Power and influence

With a feminist government and a law against gender discrimination, how come Swedish board rooms are still heavily male-dominated?

Reclaiming the F word

The Swedish government has declared itself a feminist government, devoted to a feminist foreign policy. Even if the idea has been met with both praise and criticism – domestic and international – the word feminism is not as charged in Sweden as in many other countries. The government uses the ‘F word’ to stress that gender equality is vital to society and that more needs to be done to achieve it.

It’s no coincidence, then, that 12 of the 24 government ministers are women. Definite progress has been made since Karin Kock became the first woman in the Swedish government in 1947. Nearly half of the members of the current parliament in Sweden are also women. It may be more than most countries, but was still a drop from the 2010 and the 2006 elections.

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Male-dominated board rooms – so far

The business sector, on the other hand, is a heavily male-dominated field. On the average board of a Swedish stock market company, almost one in three were women in 2015 – a great increase compared with a few years earlier. In fact, if this development continues at the same pace, the boards of listed companies in Sweden will be gender-equal within ten years. However, there’s a hitch: nine out of ten people who appoint the board members are men. Some politicians suggest quotas for women as a quicker way of achieving gender-equal board rooms.

Equality in the workplace

Sweden has come a long way in making sure that women and men are treated equally in the workplace. Gender discrimination in the workplace has been illegal since 1980. The Swedish Discrimination Act from 2009 demands that employers not only actively promote equality between men and women, but also take measures against harassment. The act also states that employees and job applicants who are, have been or will be taking parental leave may not be treated unfairly.

Cases of discrimination can be reported to the Swedish Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen), a goverment agency that protects equal rights. ‘Discrimination’ includes cases of unfair treatment by an employer in connection with an employee’s parental leave.

The global gender gap

Every year, the international organisation World Economic Forum ranks more than 140 countries based on the gap between women and men according to indicators within health, education, economy and politics. Since 2006, Sweden has never ranked lower than fourth. But if the Global Gender Gap Report is anything to go by, on a global level workplaces still won’t be truly gender-equal until 2095.

women-in-national-parliaments

Want a break from gender statistics? Browse through our female-dominated list of 10 Swedish superwomen.

Economic equality

Sweden has greatly increased the economic equality between women and men over time. Still, a pay gap remains. This is one of the challenges on the Swedish gender equality agenda.

Why is there not equal pay?

Women’s average monthly salaries in Sweden are less than 87 per cent of men’s – 95 per cent when differences in choice of profession and sector are taken into account. Pay differences are most obvious in the county councils, and the smallest difference is found among blue-collar workers.

The pay gap between men and women can partly be explained by differences in profession, sector, position, work experience and age. But some of them seem to have more to do with gender. The Discrimination Act states that employers and employees should work actively for equal pay for equal work, as well as promote equal opportunity for women and men to receive a pay rise.

Working for free after 15:57

Another way of illustrating the current pay gap of 13.2 per cent is to say that women basically work without pay from 15:57. Assuming a working day is eight hours and ends at 17:00, a 13.2 per cent shorter day is the same as if women worked without pay from 15:57 pm.

The goal of 15:57-rörelsen (the 15:57 movement) is to ensure that women are paid for a full day’s work. The movement was started by the Swedish Women’s Lobby (Sveriges Kvinnolobby) in 2012 and is now a co-operation between political women’s unions, trade union organisations and women’s movement societies.

At the beginning, the movement went under the name 15:51 as the pay gap was then 14.3 per cent. The 15:57 movement strives for its own name to continue changing until women no longer ‘work for free’.

The Swedish Women’s Lobby claims that the average woman works for free after 15:57. Every year, the remaining pay gap between women and men is manifested in central Stockholm.

Photo: Sveriges Kvinnolobby/15:57

Part-time is part of the problem

Every third woman and every tenth man in Sweden work part-time. The major reason for this is lack of relevant full-time employment, but the second most common reason for women is childcare, followed by caring for an elderly relative.

When women have children, they tend to work part-time more often than men. The downside of this is a less positive career and wage development for women, as well as a poor pension. A woman who, after taking parental leave, works 50 per cent of full time for 10 years and then 75 per cent for another ten years will have a pension that is only 71 per cent of what a person working full time will get.

 

Work and family

Sweden does pretty well when it comes to work–family balance. The average Swedish woman has 1.9 children (EU average: 1.6) and, at the same time, the rate of working women is the highest in the EU, 78.3 per cent.

The kids-and-career equation

A family policy that supports working parents with the same rights and obligations for both women and men makes it easier for parents in Sweden to find a decent work–life balance.

Child care is guaranteed to all parents and the aim is that nursery school and pre-school should be affordable for all. Fees are proportional to the parents’ income and the more children you have, the less you pay per child. For children between three and six, child care is even free for up to 15 hours per week. It was in the 1970s that public child care was reformed and expanded to facilitate for families with two working parents.

The Swedish government also provides an additional monthly child allowance until the age of 16 of SEK 1,050 per month per child, and if you have more than one child, you get an extra family supplement.

In 2015, more than 1 in 4 parental leave days was taken by men. Ten years earlier, that figure was not even 1 in 10.

Photo: Kristin Lidell/imagebank.sweden.se

What’s with all the male nannies?

In 1974, Sweden was the first country in the world to replace gender-specific maternity leave with parental leave. The so-called parental insurance enabled couples to take six months’ off work per child, with each parent entitled to half of the days. However, a father could sign his days over to the mother – and as a result, two decades later, 90 per cent of paternity leave in Sweden was being used by mothers only.

In 1995, the first pappamånad – ‘daddy month’ – was introduced, with 30 days of leave reserved for the father on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. If the father decided not to use that month off work, the couple would lose one month’s paid leave. In 2002, this was extended to two ‘daddy months’, or 60 days. By 2014, fathers were taking 25 per cent of the total number of days available to the couple. As of 1 January 2016, there are three ‘daddy months’ with 90 days of paid leave reserved for fathers.

The relatively high number of fathers on ‘daddy leave’ has caused foreign journalists to wonder why there are so many male nannies in Sweden. Others call them ‘latte dads’.

Read more about Swedish family life in 10 things that make Sweden family-friendly.

 

Men’s violence against women

Global figures indicate that about 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, often within a relationship. Sweden works actively to defend and strengthen the rights of women and girls.

How would you define being macho?

Rape and sexual assault

Despite the fact that Swedish statesman Birger Jarl banned rape already in the 1250s, Sweden battles with among the highest rape statistics in the world today. But rape statistics from different countries are very hard to compare – there are great differences in definition as well as how a crime is registered. For example, in Sweden each and every rape is registered as a separate crime, which is not the case in all countries. The victim’s willingness to report may also differ between countries.

Recently, the debate has intensified due to sexual assaults at music festivals in Sweden. At one event in Stockholm, the police failed to report the assaults for fear of worsening ethnic tensions, as many women were assaulted by gangs of young foreign men. Schools have an important preventive role to play here, and the government is taking special measures to inform and educate newly arrived refugees on gender equality and non-discrimination, as well as related laws and regulations.

The guys who get it

Fatta man (Swedish for ‘Get it, man’) is a project run by a number of organisations in Sweden: Men for Gender Equality (Män för Jämställdhet), Make Equal and Femtastic. Fatta man enables men and boys to take responsibility and be part of the positive development for a law on consent and against sexual violence. The project aims to redefine the current norm of masculinity, which is seen as narrow and destructive.

Official video for ‘Det börjar med mig’ (It starts with me), produced for Fatta man by Swedish hip-hoppers Adam Tensta, Erik Rapp, Zacke and Parham.

Official video for ‘Det börjar med mig’ (It starts with me), produced for Fatta man by Swedish hip-hoppers Adam Tensta, Erik Rapp, Zacke and Parham.

Costly violence

Over the years, the number of reported cases of violence against women in Sweden has risen significantly as more women speak out. In 2015, around 28,700 cases of violence against women over the age of 18 were recorded in Sweden. In more than eight out of ten cases the perpetrators were men, and in three out of four cases the perpetrators were known to the women.

Apart from the suffering caused, the total cost of healthcare, sick leave, police investigations, trials and imprisonment amounts to SEK 45 billion a year. That is more than the entire annual budget for the Swedish defence.

What happens to men who abuse women?

Sweden’s current Act on Violence against Women came into force in 1998. Each physical blow and/or instance of sexual and psychological degradation against the woman is taken into account. The maximum sentence for a gross violation of a woman’s integrity is six years’ imprisonment. Women and men, girls and boys, must have the same right and access to physical integrity.

Last updated: 21 November 2016

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