Scandinavian view on gender equality

On the occasion of International Women’s day, we want to dig deeper into the Scandinavian view on gender equality and these countries continuous work in this specific field.

In accordance with many international rankings and surveys, these nations are among the best places to live in as a woman. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are all at the top of many ranking lists when it comes to gender equality. The reasons behind this and what makes the Scandinavian countries stand out are what we are going to take a closer look at below.


The Nordic countries were the first to develop the paid parental leave system by adding the so-called “mother and father quotas”. They were also among the first countries in the world to provide women with full voting rights. Likewise among the first ones to introduce legislation prohibiting dismissal from employment on the grounds of marriage or parenthood¹.

Employment and income equality

Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have comparatively high rates of female participation in the labor force and proportion of parliamentary seats held by women. The number of women in the Scandinavian public sector has increased and today the prime ministers of both Norway and Denmark are women. So is also 47% of Sweden’s parliament².

Norway tops all other nations in terms of income equality. Gender gaps in labor participation and employment are among the smallest in the Nordic region compared to other OECD member countries³.

Family equality

The Scandinavian countries offer very comprehensive packages of family and gender equality policy. They also encourage continuous full-time employment for all men and women, including single parents. Geared towards facilitating employment, with the state expected to provide adults with the necessary services and support to do so. The support includes family support like childcare and paid leave to both men and women to help them find and stay in paid work, even after becoming parents.

Regarding parental leave, in Sweden, each parent is entitled to 240 of the 480 days of the period and each parent has 90 days reserved exclusively for him or her.

In our previous blog posts regarding how Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are family-friendly countries, you can learn more about gender equality when it comes to parental leave:

5 things that make Sweden family-friendly

5 things that make Norway family-friendly

5 things that make Denmark family-friendly

The Scandinavian countries’ progressive childcare and parental leave policies allow women o grow within their careers. Thanks to the policies they are not taking a risk being penalized for being a mother and having a child.

Comparison of Scandinavia with other countries

For other countries in the Western world, it can be hard to replicate the success of the Nordic nations on the equality front as they do not have the same conditions to work from. Geoff Hodgson is a professor in management at Loughborough University’s London campus. According to him, the demographic and governmental structures in the Nordic countries are relatively unique. They can not be seen everywhere in the world. These nations are relatively small and ethnically relatively homogeneous, have high levels of taxations and welfare provisions available. Hodgson says that these mentioned attributes are not shared by other countries.

The future

Anneli Häyrén, a researcher at the Centre for Gender Research at Sweden’s Uppsala University says that there are statistics that suggest they have not reached the goal yet regarding gender equality. Häyrén adds that they are even far away from where they want to be. Together with other experts, she believes that the Nordic countries still have ways to go, to reach the goal. The idea is to reach these goals by focusing on issues like the wage gap, harassment, and recruitment. Issues which shows the basic problem that men are higher valued and have a bigger space. With this said, the Scandinavian countries will not stop working on decreasing the gender equality gap.

To learn more about how women live and work in the Scandinavian countries, you can read our previous blog post Best countries to live in 2020.

To summarize, the Scandinavian view on gender equality is among the best in the world. According to international rankings, these countries are among the best places to live in as a woman. This is the result of different aspects such as support from the government, progressive childcare, and parental leave laws.

Man and woman with arms in the air celebrating victory.

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