Sweden (8)

Sweden: one of most highly developed nations in the world that’s consistently ranked one of the best countries to reside.

In a place where the economy is strong and unemployment is low, the social democrats have reigned for decades. With a traditionally mixed economy, high standard of living, one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, Sweden has also become a haven for refugees and asylum seekers. About 1 in every 10 people residing in Sweden are not native Swedes. Now how has this peace and seeming prosperity affected Sweden’s women?

Based on the Global Gender Gap Report, since the documents creation, the country has never appeared less than fourth in the rankings.

On Sweden’s official website, “gender equality is one of the cornerstones of Swedish society”. Sweden’s policies are continually created to provide equal opportunities, right and obligations for everyone in all aspects of everyday life. The government readily champions that everyone no matter their gender had the right to support themselves, balance a career and family life, and perform daily tasks without fear of abuse of violence. 

The cornerstone of Swedish education was built on the Education Act which provides gender equality in all levels of the Swedish education system.

In Sweden, girls overall have better grades in Swedish schools and typically perform better on national exams. Not to mention, a larger portion of those who complete upper secondary education are in fact females.

Several decades ago, men largely outnumbered women in Swedish Universities. Today about two thirds of all university degrees are given to women and in postgraduate and doctoral studies, the split between men and women are about even.

You may be reading this and thinking, okay, this can be true for several other countries with similar systems, why is Sweden’s treatment of women so well revered. It has to do with the extensive welfare system that supports a healthy work-life balance. Parents, no matter their gender, are entitled to share about 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave whether their child was born or adopted. On average, men use about twenty five percent of those allocated days.

For 390 days, parents are able to receive about eighty percent of their pay, no more than 942 SEK. During the rest of those ninety days, parents are given a flat rate of about 180 SEK. Even those who are unemployed are able to receive some kind of payment.

To go in a little more in depth, about ninety days (three months) of leave are non transferrable to the other parent. Also, one of the parents of the new-born receive an extra ten days of leave in order to ensure they have the time they need in correspondence with the expected birth. Those who are expecting twins receive about twenty days. Adopting parents receive about 480 days between them starting from when they receive care of the child. A single parent is entitled to the same 480 days.

Despite the long way Sweden has come in gender equality, even its government recognizes that pay differences do prevail, and the proportion of women in high-up positions remains weak.

Sweden’s Discrimination Act deals with gender equality specifically in the workplace. The law requires employers to promote equality and pursue the notion in the workplace. The law also prohibits discrimination and requires employers to take cautionary action against kind of harassment. The law was recently expanded in 2017 to include “sex, transgender identity, expression, ethnicity, religion, or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age”. The law also requires employers to treat all employees fairly whether or not they have taken or plan to take family leave.

Much of the difference in pay between men and women can be attributed to profession, position, and work experience. Without those factors being considered, a woman makes about 87 percent of what a man makes, but when you weight those factors, a woman makes about 95 percent. The small difference in pay is typically between blue collar workers. But based on those percentages, there may be work to be done, but clearly Sweden has made significant strides to bring women extremely close to the same paycheck as their male counterparts.

The numbers and statistics backing Swedish gender equality efforts are jaw dropping. The money and time spent to ensure that work in going in to give women fair opportunities whether its in the office, or on the streets. But looking at the situation of Sweden and the various other countries I have blogged about is too wide to compare. But the answer is why? It all boils down to several factors: poverty, stability, and culture. Some societies are built on patriarchal notions, and have a corrupted political sphere which has in turn caused poverty, and lack of food, sanitary conditions, low standard of living across the board.. Sweden on the other hand, has a government focused on gender equality, and that’s what really makes the difference, but that  doesn’t mean other countries can’t work to build values on a smaller scale.

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