Women’s economic conditions have changed fundamentally in just a few decades, but the goal remains to be reached in the Nordic countries.
‘Economic equality is not some fringe problem. It’s actually a key factor if we want to get somewhere with the gender equality work,’ says Louise Lindfors, chair of the Fredrika-Bremer-Association.
Why did you start the project?
‘The economic issues are critical to the Nordic gender equality work. When the World Economic Forum measures gender equality in different countries (in the annual Global Gender Gap Report) the Nordic ones end up at the top of the list, but serious problems are also revealed. Our score for representation, for example in politics, is high, but when it comes to the economic domain our ranking is not nearly as high.’
Why are we ranked lower in that area?
‘In a nutshell, men tend to have more money to spend than women. There’re several reasons for this. One in three women work part time; for men it’s one in ten. Women take out 74 per cent of the parental leave and are also more likely to stay home from work with sick kids. And then of course there are the pay differentials – men’s work is assigned a higher value than women’s.’
What will it take for the Nordic countries to achieve economic equality?
‘We need to close the pay gap and reach a more gender equal distribution of family and household responsibilities. The introduction of a daddy month (one month of the total parental leave reserved for the father) is the single most important gender equality measure in Sweden. Everybody knows this, so it should be easy to realise that more work in this area can have a major impact. The politicians are afraid of telling people what to do, but it’s really a matter of communicating what’s expected. A shared parental leave policy would signal that equal sharing is the default way of doing it.’
You talk about economic vulnerability. Do the weaknesses in gender equality really have such serious economic consequences?
‘Yes. Look at our older people and you’ll find a particularly good example. In Sweden, about 225 000 senior citizens live below the EU poverty level. Most of them are women. The limit is set at a gross income of SEK 10 400 kronor and there are a large number of older people in Sweden who don’t come close to this level. A person’s economic situation depends on many factors, and gender is a big one. Sometimes we’re told the Nordic countries are close enough to perfect gender equality. We disagree, to say the least.’
Do you feel it’s difficult to reach out with these issues?
‘This is complex stuff so, yes, it’s a communicative challenge. We have some wild plans for how to explain things without coming across as dictating to people how they should live their lives. To reach out broadly I think we need to find ambassadors. At the Fredrika-Bremer-Association, we have for example worked together with the comedian Bianca Kronlöf. She can obviously reach out to people in a way that we at the Association simply can’t.’
This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.