The Finnish Government’s gender equality programme for 2016–2019 identifies six prioritised areas for the country’s gender equality work:
- Promotion of gender equality in the labour market and the workplace
- Support people’s ability to combine paid work with family life and parenthood
- Promotion of gender equality in education and sport
- Reduction of violence against women and violence in intimate relationships
- Improvement of men’s wellbeing and health
- Promotion of gender equality through political decision-making.
The Finnish Government’s gender equality policy is headed by the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is the ministry with the overarching responsibility for coordination of gender equality issues. The Gender Equality Unit at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is tasked with developing and implementing the Government’s gender equality policy and with following up reforms of the national legislation. The Gender Equality Unit also represents Finland internationally and at EU level in the area of gender equality. Each minister is in charge of gender equality matters within his or her respective domain.
The Finnish Act on Equality between Men and Women came into force in 1987 with an aim to improve the gender equality and prevent direct and indirect gender discrimination in the country. The Ombudsman for Equality ensures compliance with the Act and also monitors the protection of gender minorities against discrimination. The Ombudsman for Equality is an independent supervisory authority under the Ministry of Justice and is also tasked with providing instructions and advice on issues related to the Act on Equality between Men and Women. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration monitors the protection against discrimination in both the Employment Contracts Act and the Act on Equality between Men and Women.
The Council for Gender Equality (TANE) is a parliamentary delegation established in 1972. Its job is to follow the development of gender equality in society, promote cooperation between authorities and relevant actors, promote research on gender equality, contribute to the development of legislation in the area of gender equality and implement other measures to promote gender equality. TANE operates within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and has an advisory role in the government administration.
The National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal is an impartial and independent body that monitors compliance with the Non-Discrimination Act and handles gender equality issues addressed by the labour market organisations or the Ombudsman for Equality.
All state and municipal authorities and actors have a responsibility to promote gender equality in all activity areas.
Elements of gender mainstreaming were introduced in Finnish gender equality policy in the early 1990s, and the country’s action plan for increased gender equality 1997–1999 identifies gender mainstreaming as one of the central strategies for increased gender equality in Finland.
All ministries are required to examine the central challenges concerning gender equality in their respective domains. The ministries must strive to ensure that gender equality objectives be established in key projects and reforms, that gender consequences be assessed in all reform stages and that the effects on gender equality be reported. An analysis of the gender consequences must be made in connection with the preparation of statutes. All ministries must also ensure that information specified according to gender be produced in their respective domains, and that this information be used to inform all preparation/drafting work and decision making. They must also guarantee sufficient gender equality competence.
The parliamentarian Council for Gender Equality was formed in 1972 and remains a forum for cooperation between government agencies and relevant actors in the area of gender equality. The Finnish Government’s first action plan for gender equality covered the period 1980-1985. The Act on Equality between Women and Men was adopted in 1987, with a view to improve the gender equality and prevent direct and indirect gender discrimination. In connection with this, the government also established supervisory agencies, the Ombudsman for Equality and the Gender Equality Board.
A revision of the Act in 1995 mandated balanced proportions of women and men in government committees, municipalities, public agencies and public companies. A subsequent revision in 2005 required public authorities to promote gender equality in all their activities purposefully and systematically, as well as create and consolidate practices that ensure the advancement of gender equality in the preparatory work undertaken on different matters and in decision-making. In particular, circumstances that prevent the attainment of gender equality must be changed. The Contracts of Employment Act, with important anti-discrimination regulations, was adopted in 2001, and the Anti-Discrimination Act was adopted in 2004, covering the remaining forms of discrimination. From 1980 gender equality matters are handled by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.