What You Need to Know About Women’s Rights in SwedenWith the 20th largest GDP per capita in the world, the affluent Scandinavian nation of Sweden is often seen as the quintessential nation for equality and liberalism. With its strong history of leading reforms promoting social welfare in Sweden, the country ranks first in Sustainable Development Goals out of the entirety of U.N. member states. Of these reforms, many work to increase women’s rights in Sweden with a focus on ending the gender disparities seen in many other Western nations.

Reforms in Sweden Ending Gender Disparities

Sweden has been championing gender equality for centuries. In one of the earliest known cases in Europe, women in Sweden were granted suffrage in local elections in 1718. In 1842, girls were allowed to be educated in schools that used to be restricted to males only. Then in 1919, women gained full voting rights in a movement led by suffragist Elin Wägner. Reforms would continue throughout the 20th century with the legalization of birth control and abortions in 1938, the passing of legislation for mandatory three months paid maternity leave in 1955 and the abolition of joint taxation in 1971.

Most recently, the Swedish government outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace in 1980. These laws were further expanded on through the passing of the Swedish Discrimination Act in 2009 and its expansion in 2017 that added protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled, racial and ethnic minorities and religious minorities.

Female Representation in Government

Because of the centuries of reform, the advancement of women’s rights in Sweden can be seen even at the highest levels of government. As of 2019, women made up 46% of the Swedish parliament and 50% of the cabinet, including that of the position of Minister of Gender Equality, held by Åsa Lindhagen.

In comparison, women account for 23.7% of today’s United States House of Representatives out of a total of 537 seats. Women also make up only 20.8% of President Donald Trump’s 24-member cabinet.

Sweden’s almost even distribution between male and female government officials represents how far women’s rights in Sweden have advanced. In fact, feminism is now seen in Sweden as an official government policy rather than a social movement with gender equality being “central to the government’s priority” according to a government statement.

Continuing Gender Wage Gap

However, despite these reforms the gender wage gap, like in many other developed nations, still persists. In a 2018 study by the European Union of the gender pay gap in EU countries, it was shown that women earn 12.2% less income than men in Sweden.

While this pay gap is significantly lower than the United States’ 18% or the European Union average of 14.8%, it is also significantly higher than the 5% wage gap in Italy and Luxemburg.

Many experts describe this presence of a wage gap in gender-equal countries as a paradox. It’s unknown why this phenomenon occurs when such measures have been taken to assure women’s rights in Sweden but it is assumed that culture around gender norms and roles plays a part.

Sweden’s historic reforms and the committed government has led it to become one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. Mandating paid maternity leave, legalizing birth control and abortions and increasing women’s representation in parliament have all contribute to this success. However, Sweden still struggles to close the wage gap between males and females even amid the ever-evolving policy promoting women’s rights in Sweden, this is bound to one day be an obstacle to overcome.

Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr 

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Sweden
Located in northern Europe, Sweden has long been heralded by the international community as the embodiment of the Nordic Model– a projection of pragmatic socialism, a bastion of human rights and prosperity for all. But is the country really worthy of the laudatory praise? In the text below, this question will be answered by presenting the top 10 facts about living conditions in Sweden.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Sweden

  1. Sweden boasts a high Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.93, placing the country in the seventh place in world rankings. The HDI aims to measure the overall quality of life in a country and is an aggregate figure comprised of life expectancy at birth, Gross National Income (GNI) and expected years of schooling. Sweden’s HDI is perhaps the best indicator of the overall quality of life and living conditions in the country.
  2. Sweden is geographically varied, which makes the seasons different depending on where you live in the country. Most people think of winter when they hear of Sweden, but because of the warm Gulf Stream, the climate in the country can be much milder than one might expect. The average temperature in Stockholm, country’s capital located in the southeast of the country, ranges from an average of 18 degrees Celsius in July to -3 degrees Celsius in January, low enough to have a dire effect on disenfranchised populations starved for satisfactory housing, heat, or suitable clothing.
  3. Though money cannot buy happiness, it does play a critical role in highlighting a countries’ living conditions. With a GDP per capita of $51,500 in 2017, Sweden ranks 26th in global rankings, behind the likes of the Netherlands, United States and Qatar. As a country, Sweden prides itself on its commitment to reducing economic inequality, reflected in its recent sixth-place ranking in Oxfam’s Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRI). The Swedish government has transferred this good intention into tangible impacts, with Sweden ranking ninth out of the 34 OECD countries in respect to the prevalence of income inequality within the country, as measured by the GINI Coefficient, a leading measure of domestic wealth disparities.
  4. In terms of employment, 76 percent of people aged 15 to 64 in Sweden are currently employed in a paid position, above OECD average of 67 percent. Currently, 78 percent of men are employed and 75 percent of women, which is well above the international female labor force participation rate of 48 percent. Furthermore, only 1 percent of employees work very long hours, compared to the OECD average of 13 percent.
  5. Sweden’s education system is also ranked in the top 10 globally. Education budget amounted to 13.2 percent of total public expenditures, beating the OECD rate of 12.9 percent. Sweden’s school life expectancy, meaning how long the average student stays in school, is 16.1 years.
  6. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, meaning the monarch is the head of state but exerts no political power. The country’s constitution dates back to 1809 and was later revised in 1975. It is based on four fundamental laws: the Riksdag Act, the Instrument of Government, the Act of Succession, and the Freedom of the Press Act. The country’s’ current Prime Minister is Stefan Lofven. His Excellency King Carl XVI Gustaf is the reigning monarch.
  7. Sweden received a perfect 100 aggregate score by Freedom House in its annual 2018 Freedom in the World rankings, being labeled, unsurprisingly, as “free.” For comparison, the U.S. earned a score of 86, placing it 53rd globally, just three ahead of Ghana and Panama.
  8. Sweden’s life expectancy in 2017 was pegged at 82.4 years, good enough for ninth overall in the world. Sweden’s health care system was recently ranked third in the world. Sweden’s universal health care system is importantly decentralized and largely tax-funded, a system that ensures everyone has equal access to health care services.
  9. Today, 1.33 million people, or roughly 14.3 percent of Sweden’s population, are foreign-born. However, Sweden hasn’t always been as diverse as it is today. In the 1900s, for example, only 0.7 percent of the countries roughly 5 million inhabitants were foreign-born. This relatively sudden and palpable demographic change, from a largely white, Christian and homogenous society to a more religiously, culturally and ethnically diverse one has become a topic of heated debate within the country.
  10. In recent years, Sweden’s reputation as a safe, peaceful country has fallen increasingly under threat. Gang-related crime in Sweden is rising, and for many on the right, it is being used as a case study about how migration policy can go horribly wrong. As aforementioned, in 2016, Sweden took in more refugees per capita than any other nation. Around the same time, violent gang crime has gone up.

As becomes quickly apparent from the article above, Sweden ranks near the top globally in a variety of crucial aspects that help to piece together a thorough picture of living conditions in the country, from its heavily-funded education and health care system to its commitment to upholding democracy, human rights and thwarting income inequality. Nonetheless, significant social strains continue to threaten the country. Sweden’s large refugee intake and changing demography, for example, has been met with a harsh reprimand by some and a rise in crime. If the country fails to address these major issues, its pristine standing in the international communities may be threatened.

– William Lloyd
Photo: Flickr