Finland has a long history with gender equality, being the world’s first country to offer full political rights to women in 1906. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Finland, including landmark developments and where it needs to improve.
5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Finland
- Finland offers one of the most generous parental leave policies in all of Europe. A February 2020 policy granted seven months of paid leave for new mothers as well as one month of pregnancy allowance prior to their official leave. Non-biological parents have access to the same parental leave privileges while single parents receive a full 14 months of paid leave. This updated policy also extends the seven months of parental leave to fathers and allows parents to transfer up to 69 days from their seven-month allotment to the other parent. Gender-neutral parental leave policies are a crucial step toward gender equality by leveling the gap between conventionally male and female roles in society and relieving women of the tradition of them solely raising their children.
- Women in Finland enjoy high-quality education. In fact, Finland ranked first in the world in leveling the gender gap in educational attainment in 2018. The consistently high levels of education among women show this. Among those obtaining a university-level or post-graduate in 2012, the proportion of women was 60% and 50%, respectively. Moreover, the rate of female educational attainment is increasing rapidly and significantly outpacing that of men, as the share of women earning post-graduate degrees jumped from 15% in 1975 to 54% in 2012.
- Political institutions provide equal representation. Finland’s government has a history of pioneering gender equality, being the first parliament in the world to include female members of parliament. Finland elected its first female prime minister in 2003, and its third female prime minister, Sanna Marin, assumed office in December 2019. Marin leads a coalition government consisting of five parties, all of which have women under the age of 35 at the helm. Female representation in the nation’s 2019 election was especially notable, with a record number of women winning parliamentary seats, amounting to 47% of the parliament. As a result, Finland ranked sixth globally in political empowerment for women in 2018.
- Women dominate the labor market. Finland enjoys the highest labor participation rate of women worldwide and ranks among the best nations for working women. Moreover, the employment rate for Finnish women is higher than the European Union average. However, Finland needs to still make improvements, as women in the public and private sectors receive only 80% to 85% of their male counterparts’ earnings. Nonetheless, the gender pay gap has been steadily decreasing over the last two decades and expectations have determined that it should continue to decrease as a result of social welfare policies that allow women to reconcile family and work life.
- Finland is a victim of the “Nordic Paradox,” the trend where Scandinavian nations experience high rates of domestic violence despite promoting gender equality in economic and political life. The 2013 rate of intimate partner violence in Finland was nearly double the European average. Domestic violence rose 7% in 2019 with over 10,000 reported victims, more than half of which were between married couples. Finland has taken steps at the national level to address this trend, having adopted a National Gender Action Plan and trained about 200 federal judges in prosecuting cases involving violence against women. Moreover, crisis shelters and a free 24/7 helpline are available, with specialized investigators and law enforcement officials to address reports of violence. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare oversees these shelters, which also provide professional counseling and health services to customers.
- Migrant women are a major part of Finland’s equal rights agenda. Immigrant women with children experience an employment rate that is nearly 50% lower than that of their native-born counterparts, and social integration has posed a challenge for these communities. To address this issue, the Social Impact Bond emerged through institutional and private investment to assist immigrant women in finding employment within four months. Moreover, the national government finances public language programs to offer support to recent migrants learning the Finnish language.
Despite being a pioneer for women’s rights in Finland, the country still experiences its fair share of women’s issues. However, with a female-led government and strong social welfare policies, Finland’s progress is effectively ongoing and still serves as a model for the rest of the developed world.
– Neval Mulaomerovic